Not by seeking

Martin Buber, p 11 of I and Thou: “The Thou meets me through grace–it is not found by seeking.” Does he mean we cannot, should not, seek it? There is nothing we can do but let it happen? But no, he says it is both suffering and action, both being chosen and choosing. So there is something we do when we look out upon the world of beings, each exclusive. It is a mutual role, it is a meeting. Even Buber speaks of degrees of meeting, as in the teacher-student relationship: the teacher takes both sides, the student only the student’s own side.

“Concentration and fusion into the whole being can never take place through my agency, nor can it ever take place without me.” Both are necessary, but there is something more in his words here: he goes on to say “I become through my relation to the Thou; as I become I, I say Thou.” Then the next paragraph is only 5 words: “All real living is meeting.”

So the central thing here is meeting. Do we not have opportunity to invite meeting? Perhaps that is the grace: we invite, but the grace is in when it actually happens. “No aim, no lust, and no anticipation intervene between I and Thou.” On the next page: “Only when every means has collapsed does the meeting come about.”

It is not about my wanting the meeting: that gets in the way. It is about actually meeting. Directly. No intervention. Get out of the way. Step in the way and invite, then allow the other to accept or decline. Get in the middle of life. Get yourself and your aims, desires, and means out of the way. Even perhaps your invitations? At least to allow the other to decline. It is the Thou which is found in grace, the invitation can come about through action. This is a mystery, this action and grace business. Is there another way to see it?

Maybe Buber answers it on p 15: “Believe in the simple magic of life, in service in the universe…. but look! round about you beings live their life, and to whatever point you turn you come upon being.” So perhaps we do not need even to invite, but to turn. Turn and open ourselves to the meeting. That is the action.

We do need service in the universe: this is the hard hat of love, and its work boots, hammer and tongs. This is also life, for the way to have the real and the life in this world is to plunge.

Persons are seeking entrance to our lives. Whether they realize it or not. We need merely turn.

Or so it seems this morning.

:- Doug.

Published in: Conversations | on September 20th, 2005 | 1 Comment »

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One Comment Leave a comment.

  1. On September 21, 2005 at 10:25 pm doug Said:

    My friend Joelle Lyons Everett writes in response to this idea–


    I like the thought that conversation is a grace. I agree with you that intention–turning toward the other–helps, but I think it is not sufficient. I have had magnificent conversations with strangers and with friends, and don’t seem to have any reliable way of predicting when that will happen.

    Once, I was climbing onto a high stool at the counter of a coffee shop with cup and saucer, purse and packages. My spoon clattered to the floor, and the man on the next stool picked it up and went to the register to get me another spoon. We struck up a conversation and soon found a deep connection talking about our work. When we parted, he introduced himself and handed me his business card. He said, “I would never call you or make a sales pitch, but I want you to know my name. And maybe some day you will tell your grandchild that you met a man once, and really talked.” He was from Columbia, and it has been my experience that Latin Americans, in general, place a higher value on personal relationships and conversation than most North Americans.



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