Friday, 23 May 2014

Buber: All real living is meeting

I love this quote from Buber, that "All real living is meeting". I don't think he's talking about the typical meetings we all too often hold in our workplaces, rather those precious, positive and productive times when humans genuinely meet, when ideas and feelings are voiced, horizons touch and people change and grow.

I also love this quote from Buber

"I knew nothing of books when I came forth from the womb of my mother, and I shall die without books, with another human hand in my own. 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 being looking at me."

I'm not even going to attempt to explain all the complexities of Buber's ideas here. Just to salute his core idea: the distinction between "I - it" understandings, and "I - thou". This encapsulates the difference between seeing the person or the world in terms of it's properties and functions, as organisms rather than as individuals, and his argument that  we become  more fully human through our accepting "I - Thou" interactions with other human beings and the world when we put ourselves fully into the relationship, being fully open to dialogue, unconditional and authentic, embracing the risk that this could result in real change in ourselves.

His ideas were revolutionary because they refocus us on the importance of our relationships with each other and our world: How we connect, how we take notice, how we learn, how we give, how we move toward our potential as human beings.

Much of the best thinking about good listening, good meetings, coproduction, community and wellbeing that's around today owes a great debt to the concepts expounded by Martin Buber. His fingerprints are in the silences wherever people intentionally think together. His thinking was utterly person-centred:

"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"

There's a very nice slideshow introduction to Buber and his ideas here:

In an interesting piece of synchronicity, this video narrated by Gill Bailey was posted today. It's an explanation of how the 'Relationship Circle' person-centred thinking tool is used to improve people's lives and supports.

The relationship circle honours the important relationships in people's lives, and ensures they are recorded and respected. Understanding how a person is part of a network of important human relationships is so very different from regarding them in terms of  a set of deficiencies or a set of care tasks.

"What's important to people always includes relationships" says Gill: I think Buber would warmly approve.

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