I and Thou

The way I read the Jewish theologian, Martin Buber (I and Thou, 1923), he offers a humanist variant of/alternative to existentialism. Where Sartre might say, “Existence precedes essence,” Buber might say, “Relationship precedes essence.” In contrast to the stark “thrownness” of the existentialist, who finds himself alone in an indifferent universe, Buber finds identity itself to be a by-product of the “I-Thou” relation (connections both to fellow humankind and to Being itself). Having shuffled off the existentialist’s burden of aloneness, however, Buber is not exactly the Walmart greeter to Happy Valley. Like the existentialist, he is weighed down with responsibility. For now he carries forever — past, present, and future – the built-in burden of all that connection, the “exalted melancholy of our fate” (16).

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Existentialist Humor

The Existentialist Comics post by SelfAwarePatterns reminded me of this Jean-Paul Sartre joke. Maybe you’ve heard it.

Jean-Paul Sartre is sitting at a French cafe, revising his draft of Being and Nothingness. He says to the waitress, “I’d like a cup of coffee, please, with no cream.” The waitress replies, “I’m sorry, Monsieur, but we’re out of cream. How about with no milk?”

Three points/counterpoints

Ayn Rand

“The Objectivist ethics holds that the actor must always be the beneficiary of his action and that man must act for his own rational self-interest.”

Reverend Sun Myung Moon

“The principle of the universe is for everyone to live together, for the sake of one another.”

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Ayn Rand

“A rational man … does not subordinate his life to the welfare of others, does not sacrifice himself to their needs, and the relief of their suffering is not his primary concern.”

Dalai Lama

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”

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Jean-Paul Sartre

“Man is condemned to be free … thrown into the world …  no excuse behind us, nor justification before us. We are alone, with no excuses.”

Alan Watts

“The prevalent sensation of oneself as a separate ego enclosed in a bag of skin is a hallucination… We do not ‘come into’ this world; we come out of it, as leaves from a tree … We can wipe our brow and know that we’re not alone.”