“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” Martin Buber
I found out recently that the word ‘karma’ actually means ‘action’, it only involves the actions of the individual, meaning you are responsible not only for your actions, but also the backlash resulting from such actions. The idea affirms we create our own reality in and through the decisions we make while living in the gap. Which sent me running to Martin Buber to understand the nature of reality. That was a dive into the unknown, aka total snafu.
Only man truly distances, Buber argues, and hence only man has a ‘world.’ A world we create not only through karma, but from the clay of our thoughts, and fire of deeply held beliefs. Reminds me of the ceramic sculptures my kids made in grade school, they would gift me with these ‘one of a kind’ creations on mother’s day, priceless collectables now stashed in the back of a cupboard. Should I rethink how I store my past?
Buber alleges, “just as we have the instinct to name, differentiate, and make independent a lasting and substantial world, we also have the instinct to relate to what we have made independent.” I’m no expert but it appears our human status is dependent on the health of our relationships, when we move away, Buber says we forfeit our humanity. When we move in we are able to define our differentiation more clearly which according to Buber is a good thing. We learn who we are by opening the door and standing face to face with our fellow woman (inclusive of man). Doesn’t bode well for the cell phone generation.
This supports the idea that we are designed to live in community, slowly discovering our true self in relationship with the ‘other’, and it starts as soon as we move away from the familiarity of our mother’s arms. When I watch my grandchildren reach for their mama I can see they are reaching for much more than the person they cling to, they are reaching for love, comfort, protection, security, belonging, and so much more, because they have yet to develop the ability to find these on their own. Makes me miss my mama and pity the orphaned.
Buber says, “in confirmation one meets, chooses and recognizes the ‘other’ as a subject with the capacity to actualize one’s own potential.” You and me, together we are better, as if an intricate design, we must find each other to complete the picture. This supports those gregarious types who finish the puzzle with no missing pieces, woe to the one who hides behind her own entrapment, because as we know, whoever has, will be given more (Matthew 13). Just sayin.
It seems to me I am always seeking out people who have analogous experiences with my own, not intentionally, but because I only know the reality of my own experience, I find it difficult to relate to the unknown, although I dip my toe in the pond on occasion. This is the problem, that tiny seed of conflict grows into a giant beanstalk, and if I climb up into your world, I risk shattering my own. This might be why I’m always conflated, not to be confused with constipated (although related), which only serves to exacerbate my wrinkles.
I offer an example. I listened to one of my more ‘difficult’ students share her story of being bullied in grade school, she had inadequate experience to handle the situation, or process it at the time. She started identifying with the labels conferred on her by peers and began acting from this knowledge. She was deeply scarred, in some ways she is still identifying with these derogatory labels, as if this experience were tattooed on her heart. Her powerful narrative forced me to adapt my own, she no longer tries my patience, as much as she informs my empathy, or capacity to love.
Does it make you wonder how the bullies fair in these situations? Does this sort of behavior confer a sense of superiority onto the bully or are they acting from a place of such intense fear they eventually cripple themselves? Buber explains, “One cannot in the nature of things expect a little tree that has been turned into a club to put forth leaves.”
Possibly why I painted a vine on the baseball bat leaning against the back wall in our room, an Italian form of protection that profoundly clashed with my decor, I even adorned it with a white bow. We only had to use it once, it turned out to be a false alarm, but Larry running out the front door in his underwear, waving a bat adorned with ribbon and vines was memorable.
Buber maintains that the self becomes either more fragmentary or more unified through its relationships to ‘other’. This is sort of scary, because the more deprived the environment, the more fragmented we become, and the less clarity we have around concepts of good and evil, which only serves to blur our already clouded vision. Buber says evil is a formless, chaotic swirling of potentiality; in the life of man it is experienced as endless possibility pulling in all directions. Good is that which forms and determines this possibility, limiting it into a particular direction, as if veering indignation towards restitution, or accord.
We manifest the good to the extent we become a singular being with a singular direction. Which I believe means we are not scattered in our approach, we know who we are, and we act in accordance with this knowledge. Buber says the origin of all conflict between me and my fellow (wo)men is that I do not say what I mean, and I don’t do what I say. I’m still trying to perfect these skills. How about you?
The truth is our actions reveal a lot more about what we believe than we care to think. Buber says when we mistrust one presupposes that the ‘other’ is likewise filled with mistrust, leading to a dangerous reserve, and lack of candor. I think that means mistrust actually breeds mistrust in our interactions with each other. We bring these things into our own reality by embodying these presuppositions, but the good news is we can manifest kindness, love, compassion just as easily by choosing to act from these notions instead.
Buber states that a ‘lie’ denotes a self that evades itself, as manifested not just in a gap between will and action, but more fundamentally, between will and will. Similarly, “truth” is not possessed but is rather lived in the person who affirms his or her particular self by choosing direction. If I’m presenting my true self there’s no need to lie. What a bugaboo. Try going an entire day without a single lie, it’s rather telling, especially present in areas of conflict. #challenges
This process Buber argues is guided by the presentiment implanted in each of us of who we are meant to become. I think this means we are a unique creation, if we live true to ourselves, then we bring qualities into the world unique to us. So our only job is to discover our true self, your marrow so to speak, which happens to be exactly what the world needs. Buber claims an education of solidarity means learning to live from the point of view of the ‘other’ without giving up one’s own view. He could have simply said ~ you be you ~ I’ll be me ~ and happy we will be. And he won a nobel prize?
Buber also claims the formation of the ‘I’ of the ‘I-Thou’ relation takes place in a dialogical relationship in which each partner is both active and passive and each is affirmed as a whole being. When two people relate to each other authentically and humanely, God is the electricity that surges between them Buber maintains, like an electrical current. What a shock! Apparently all aspects of our relationships are important to discovering the potential of both parties, listening is as important as talking, acting, or remaining passive. That seems extraordinarily obvious, but oddly powerful when we ‘plug in’, and actualize these concepts.
He says we exchange in language but we also have the capacity to communicate with nature and spirit. This is how we read a room so to speak, hearing more than mere words, and when you get an inkling, for goodness sakes pay attention. I often ignore such inklings until they becomes inordinately obvious because I’m busy with my own distractions. So self-absorbed am I. “The atheist staring from his attic window is often nearer to God than the believer caught up in his own false image of God,” says Buber. Wait…God isn’t a judgmental old man lounging in the clouds, but a spark between you and me, oh my, we’re not in Kansas anymore.
So in conclusion, we are always in transition, because goodness is an achievement that must be constantly accomplished. You are here because the world desperately needs you, not the polished version you present to ‘other’, but the real you, it’s the healthy marrow that saves. Buber says we preserve the unity in the world by hallowing the day, allowing evil to find direction, and serve the good. Our secret destination is learning to live in constant discovery, open to this adventure with heightened awareness, staking our entire existence on our willingness to love.
I’m Living in the Gap, stop hiding when I drop by, your only avoiding yourself. Haha! A Buberism.
- “Everyone must come out of his Exile in his own way.” Martin Buber
- “We cannot avoid using power, cannot escape the compulsion to afflict the world, so let us, cautious in diction and mighty in contradiction, love powerfully.” Martin Buber
- “Every person born into the world represents something new, something that never existed before, something original and unique….If there had been someone like her in the world, there would have been no need for her to be born.” Martin Buber