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Sophie F's picture

more ramblings

I disagree wholeheartedly that our culture is not one that defines us based upon the individual rather than her relationships to others. I maintain that we are taught not to think of ourselves in the context of our friends, families and our broader human family, but rather as individuals struggling to find our way and only secondarily as social creatures. I agree that a conflict occurs because we are inherently social and this cultural message to which I previously alluded is incompatible with our “natural” tendencies towards relatedness. Katie wrote, “constantly striving consciously to define ourselves in such a way” from where does that “striving” come from if we can agree that it is in conflict with our “natural” tendencies? I was not arguing for a cultural conflict, rather an implicit cultural message that when stored in tacit knowledge is, in fact, conflicting with a tendency towards  explanations/stories that are relative in nature.

Martin Buber, (Martin Buber) a philosopher describes two fundamental relationships, I-it and I-thou. Setting aside, for the sake of clarity, his third relationship that of I and God (God as the ultimate “thou”), Buber’s point is that I-it is an experience of a thing as we analyze it, understand it and scrutinize it as something apart from us. In this case, we experience the world as something to know and understand. Whereas I-thou is relational, an "encounter" in Buber's language, which entails a recognition of a relationship between two people in which neither is the “same” afterwards. The distinction here is an important one, I think, in that we can relate to others as objects, which results in alienation or relate to others as dynamic beings, with their own internal experiences, recognizing and reflecting back to each other the limitations of our “knowledge” of ourselves and of one another. We are alienated from ourselves, in conflict with ourselves, precisely because we are alienated from other people.

Buber wrote: "The world is not comprehensible, but it is embraceable: through the embracing of one of its beings."

And: "All actual life is encounter."

Finally,: "Persons appear by entering into relation to other persons."

While the "me" of whom I am aware can never be the same as the "me" other people perceive, I can only exist in relation to that which I perceive and those who perceive me. There can be no conclusive "knowing" of anything or anyone, making conflict, internal and otherwise, "inevitable." It is only, perhaps, with the acceptance of such limitations that conflict can be eased, valuing rather than devaluing our shared lack of "knowing." Perhaps, though different, our stories are in some ways overlapping and, yes, interchangeable. Maybe this entails letting go of the sanctity of "self" and falling (easing?) into the uncertainty of connectedness, of narrative. 

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