Martin Buber

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Martin Buber (1878-02-081965-06-13) was a Jewish philosopher, theologian, story-teller, and teacher.

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I and Thou (1923)

  • The Thou encounters me by grace— it cannot be found by seeking. But that I speak the basic word to it is a deed of my whole being, is my essential deed.
  • The basic word I-Thou can be spoken only with one's whole being. The concentration and fusion into a whole being can never be accomplished by me, can never be accomplished without me. I require a Thou to become; becoming I, I say Thou.
  • All actual life is encounter.
  • The I of the basic word I-Thou is different from that of the basic word I-It.
  • An animal's eyes have the power to speak a great language.
  • Egos appear by setting themselves apart from other egos.
  • Persons appear by entering into relation to other persons.
  • All names of God remain hallowed because they have been used not only to speak of God but also to speak to him.
  • Some would deny any legitimate use of the word God because it has been misused so much. Certainly it is the most burdened of all human words. Precisely for that reason it is the most imperishable and unavoidable. And how much weight has all erroneous talk about God's nature and works (although there never has been nor can be any such talk that is not erroneous) compared with the one truth that all men who have addressed God really meant him? For whoever pronounces the word God and really means Thou, addresses, no matter what his delusion, the true Thou of his life that cannot be restricted by any other and to whom he stands in a relationship that includes all others.
  • Whoever abhors the name and fancies that he is godless— when he addresses with his whole devoted being the Thou of his life that cannot be restricted by any other, he addresses God.
  • Through the Thou a person becomes I.

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  • Next to being the children of God our greatest privilege is being the brothers of each other.
  • A person cannot approach the divine by reaching beyond the human. To become human, is what this individual person, has been created for.
  • All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.
  • An animal's eyes have the power to speak a great language.
  • Eclipse of the light of heaven, eclipse of God— such indeed is the character of the historic hour through which the world is now passing
  • God is the mysterium tremendum that appears and overthrows, but he is also the mystery of the self-evident, nearer to me than my I.
  • God wants man to fulfill his commands as a human being and with the quality peculiar to human beings.
  • How would man exist if God did not need him, and how would you exist? You need God in order to be, and God needs you— for that is the meaning of your life.
  • I do, indeed, close my door at times and surrender myself to a book, but only because I can open the door again and see a human face looking at me.
  • I don't like religion much, and I am glad that in the Bible the word is not to be found.
  • Leisure is the exultation of the possible.
  • Power abdicates only under the stress of counter-power.
  • Solitude is the place of purification.
  • One cannot in the nature of things expect a little tree that has been turned into a club to put forth leaves. (From Paths in Utopia)
  • The law is not thrust upon man; it rests deep within him, to waken when the call comes.
  • The ones who count are those persons who— though they may be of little renown— respond to and are responsible for the continuation of the living spirit.
  • The perfection of any matter, the highest or the lowest, touches on the divine.
  • The prophet is appointed to oppose the kind, and even more: history.
  • The world is not comprehensible, but it is embraceable: through the embracing of one of its beings.
  • The world is not divine sport, it is divine destiny. There is a divine meaning of the world, of man, of human persons, of you and me.
  • There are three principles in a man's being and life, the principle of thought, the principle of speech, and the principle of action. The origin of all conflict between me and my fellow-men is that I do not say what I mean and I don't do what I say.
  • We can learn to be whole by saying what we mean and doing what we say.
  • 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.
  • When two people relate to each other authentically and humanly, God is the electricity that surges between them.
  • Without distance there is no dialogue between the two.
  • The real struggle is not between East and West, or capitalism and communism, but between education and propaganda.
  • Success is not one of the names of God.

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