I and Thou

How can we know we do exist? Touching the ground, can we feel we are standing on it? Holding our body, can we sense it on this ground? Facing the world, can we recognize that we are a tiny part of it? How about someone we love? How about someone we hate? With them, can we know who we are? How about people we don’t know? How can we know they exist as we do, and vice versa?

When we were in the Garden of Eden, we did not care about our existence. We were so spontaneous and had never questioned if God existed or not. We knew Him unconsciously; therefore, we knew we existed as well.

He exists as He exists. In the same way, we live as we exist. It is an ontological tautology. There was no such question as to why there is something rather than nothing. There were no such questions like where we came from, who we are, and where we are going.

Once, however, we are no longer in the Garden of Eden (more strictly after eating the fruit of the knowledge), we have suddenly realized that we were naked. Thus, we hide from His view. We suddenly care about our existence. We are no longer spontaneous and start wondering if God exists or not. Therefore, we are not sure of our life, either.

And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?

Genesis 3:9-11

It is one of our crucial conversations with Him. For the first time, He confronted and questioned us, and yet our answers to Him were all excuses if not self-righteous. Adam responded that he was not wrong, but Eve was. And Eve also answered that she was not, but the serpent was.

And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.

Genesis 3:12-13

For the first time, they opened their self-conscious eyes and became aware of themselves and Him after eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Their innocent unconsciousness died, which is archetypically applicable to our unconsciousness and consciousness.

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

Genesis 2:16-17

After the death of our unconsciousness, after the birth of our consciousness, God suddenly became confrontational. He kicked us out from the Garden of Eden. Since then, we’ve ever afraid of Him. The world is no longer the heavenly garden, but the external threats and existential crisis. Life is difficult in which we have to survive. The sickness unto death is real. We love and hate ourselves and others. Since then, for our very consciousness, it seems God’s love has been so elusive.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.

Proverbs 9:10

Using the words of Martin Buber (1878-1965), it means that we fell into the I and It relation, instead of the I and Thou dialogue. In the I-It relation, everything and everyone around us have been in the realm of It. In this I-It relation, using the words of Gabriel Marcel (1889–1973), we live in a world of Having, instead of Being. Moreover, using the words of Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), we live in a world of being, instead of Being-in-the-World, Dasein.

In the relation of I-It, therefore, the proof of our existence is sensual, conditional, external, materialistic, and reductionistic. It seems as if we keep on checking whether or not we do exist indeed and meaningfully through the world that seemingly and deceitfully exists outside of us. It looks as if we craft a set of concepts and definitions on humans without meeting any real humans and without living our real lives. It seems as if we build a theological edifice about God without experiencing and contemplating on His real love. In the realm of It, both life and death seem merely binary and temporal, just like a machine’s on-off switch.

There is an infinite gap between I-It and I-Thou. In searching for the meaning of life in the I-It relation, we can never find the real answer, just like we can never find the real answer on why there is something rather than nothing and on where we came from, who we are, and where we are going, in this I-It relation.

Searching It is elusive and delusive. Despite the vast accumulation of our wisdom and knowledge on It, because of such a quantitive nature, we tend to feel that we know and have a lot. Nevertheless, or because of that, we don’t know that we don’t know. Or else, the more we know, the more we don’t know that we don’t know.

In the world of It, we don’t know that we don’t know. Therefore, God is silent. We’ve never thought of listening to His real voice.

We need to surrender the fruit of knowledge. Long enough, we’ve hidden from God. Like Adam ad Eve, we’ve kept on defending and justifying ourselves, saying we have never been wrong. Paradoxically enough, we need to surrender the fruit of knowledge archetypically.

Our path to the truth rests on the I-Thou dialogue. God initiates His I-Thou dialogue with us. When God calls us, we have to answer, saying here we are. Like Samuel answered to Him on Eli’s advice, we must respond to the Lord:

Speak, LORD; for thy servant heareth.

Therefore Eli said unto Samuel, Go, lie down: and it shall be, if he call thee, that thou shalt say, Speak, LORD; for thy servant heareth. So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

1 Samuel 3:9

The world is not It, but Thou. Only when and if seeing the universe through the dialogue of I-Thou, we could restore our real eyes to meet Him. We no longer walk in the darkness. We can see the Kingdom of Heaven at hand. We no longer defend us but deny our false consciousness, and find Him within, seeing Him face to face with His love.

The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.

Isaiah 40:6-8

Image by 5hashank

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