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ParentingPanicButton » Relationships » Two ways of looking at the world—as inspired by philosopher Martin Buber

Two ways of looking at the world—as inspired by philosopher Martin Buber

We can look at the world as if it is there to serve and benefit us.  Be assertive; be aggressive, dominant and controlling.   We can determine the value of a relationship by how much we get from it.  How much money, professional advancement or prestige can we get from an association with a particular person?  How much attention, adoration, support, and emotional help can we get from someone? 

Whether we are dealing in business, personal relationship, service relationship, customer relationship, client relationship or colleague relationship, the person can become a “commodity” or a “consumable” if we are not careful.

I have just described what 19th/20th century philosopher Martin Buber characterized as the “I”/“It” relationship.

The other is called “I/thou”.  In this kind of relationship, ideally, we can expect that in every person we encounter, there lives some lesson, purpose or message.  From the most causal relationship to the most intimate relationship, whether harmonious or contentious, there is meaning.  We don’t have to analyze, interpret, dissect or judge the interaction or relationship to experience its meaning.  We have to “meet” it.  “Meeting it” can happen in a second, a moment, a minute or a lifetime.

Connecting with this meaning can involve something as simple as a smile, a nod, a kind salutation, or even a question that acknowledges who the person is, their innate value, or some other type of respect.

I am sitting on the carpet, leaning on the wall, in the airport waiting for my flight back to San Francisco, as I write this piece.  A pigeon waddled by several minutes ago, apparently stuck in the airport terminal, and it was busily picking up morsels from the carpet, unaware, or unhampered by the myriad of travelers reading, listening to I-pods and having an “I/it” moment with everyone else around.

The pigeon waddled back in front of me in the opposite direction, noticed by a few people, reacted to by none.  He had stubs of feet, with absolutely no toes.  It did not seem to faze him, and he contentedly made his way about.  He looks precious, and perfect in his imperfection.

“I/it” just moved to “I/thou”.  Last night was the final night of an amazing Caribbean cruise.  I went to a sentimental closing dinner in the absolutely quaint and elegant dining room.  I pondered over the menu.  I’d never had squab (pigeon) before, I went back and forth and finally ordered it.  I doubt I will ever eat squab again and I offer blessings to the one I ate last night.

It clearly does not come from thinking, or deliberating, but from noticing, appreciating, and loving.  Try it! 

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