In my last post, I discussed “the other” as being important to the knowledge of self. When it comes to wanting to know more about yourself, your gut reaction might be to possibly spend a year away in silence and solitude, forsaking all other individuals and objects as mere distrations from your goal of enlightenment into your own being. At the very least, you would probably want to be where it is calm and quiet, and more than likely, be removed from society–removed from “the other”.

However, I believe that each of us needs to be drawn into “the other”–through narrative, dialogue, pain and joy–in order to better understand our own thoughts, beliefs and positions. It is only when we are drawn into experience–drawn into “the other”–that we can truly know who and what we are.

What is “the other”? Let’s explore that together.

Martin Buber, one of the most prominent Jewish philosophers of the last century, posits some interesting claims in his famous work Ich and Du. Translated into English this title is I and Thou. I and Thou relationships are essential to the influence and the discovery of self. Based on dialogue, I and Thou relationships give and take, push and pull, toward a greater awareness of self and of “the other”. This concept of self-discovery does not happen in isolation but in community, one with another.

The “I” represents an individual, namely the main character, in Buber’s philosophy. Thou represents “the other”. The other…what? The other human, a distinct part, a seperate entity, a complete other being.

When this other being is engaged, there is of course a physical connection locked in by time and space, but there is also a spiritual connection that occurs between I and Thou–me and you–that is special and unique.

Man wishes to be confirmed in his being by man, and wishes to have a presence in the being of the other….
Secretly and bashfully he watches for a YES which allows him to be and which can come to him only from one human person to another.

-Martin Buber

When we come to know “the other” being, or more precisely, each other, we are able to expand our own experiences which allows us more room to investigate our own self, claims and beliefs.

The importance of the other or Thou in the process of self discovery can not be overstated. When I was in school, I was tested most and learned the most about myself when I engaged in community. When I lived with roommates, attended lectures with classmates, when I asked the right questions, and most importantly, took the time to listen, I was able to learn about you and learn about me. “The other” is there to test us, to interact with us, to create with us, to give us a mirror into our own consciousness and awareness.

However, I want to be clear about something. This is not some pro-extroverted, lets-all-talk-things-out agenda that I am pushing here. I am so introverted that I cringe just hearing the name Tony Robbins.  Most of the learning I experienced about myself came in silence and reflection when I studied “the other”. The studying of people was not some emotionless ploy to “get-inside-their-head”, but out of genuine interest, love and curiousity.  Studying doesn’t have to be utilitarian; it can be filled with emotion–joy, compassion, empathy, sorrow.  When I learned the most about myself was when I was able to think back over the words others said, read back over the papers others had written and truly studied who the other was.

Reflection is vital to the process and more often than not, reflection demands removal to solitude and serenity.

But you can not study what you do not know and you can not know what you have not seen, heard or read.

From Buber again:

“This is the eternal origin of art: that a human being confronts a form that wants to become a work through him. Not a figment of his soul but something that appears to the soul and demands the soul’s creative power. What is required is a deed that a man does with his whole being..”

-Martin Buber

To reiterate my last post again, that is what this blog is all about.  I want to give other people the opportunity to contribute something with their whole being. This likely results in simply a tiny stroke onto the great canvas that the human race has been creating from the beginning, but I believe it is a still a worthy and noble endeavor. This canvas seeks meaning, purpose, beauty and life.  As I look into the world, and especially the Internet, I see people longing to be understood and to be given a safe place to know and be known.

May RuleEight be that place for you.