Martin Buber

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The 20th century has seen a continuation of the battle between reason and romanticism, rationalism and mysticism. With little conflict, Darwin and Freud co-exist in the modern mind. Marx exhibited the split vision, extolling the power of practical, realistic workers who would create a utopian world. In fact, this dichotomy which began in the Renaissance and became a gaping wound in the 17th and 18th centuries as we embraced science and reason as our god, has allowed for 20th century aberrations like Hitler and his Aryan ubermenchen or Stalin and his totalitarian state. Clearly, the 20th century mind is in dire need of healing. But only reinventing a healthy vision of humans in the world, one which integrates both the rational bent and the mystic bent of every human mind, will effect a healing. This vision seems to have been given to us by Martin Buber. Martin Buber sums up the danger of not following such a vision when he states, “What is in question, therefore, is nothing less than man’s whole existence in the world” (Buber 1949, 129). The logical answer, is what some would see as a rather romantic cure--utopia. Buber sees only two possibilities for the future: either there will be one world government which strips the individual of personal freedom or power or there will be community which strips the world of centralized political authority. These two paths are parallel . Humans are best served by living in small, autonomous, chiefly self-sufficient communities. Now, admittedly, utopia has earned a bad reputation in the last century as social engineering gone wild. But what keeps Buber’s vision of utopia from disintegrating into dystopia is his vision of dialogue--open, authentic communication and relationship which allows for moment by moment adjustments to the community. The stakes, according to Buber are very high for the establishment of community. The way to dialogue is relationship--community. The way to community is dialogue. And the two...
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