I barely understand 1/3 of Martin Buber’s I and Thou.
In his good and perhaps unintentionally hilarious introduction to the book, translator Walter Kaufmann warns the reader that “this book is untranslatable,” “overwritten,” and it “has many faults,” and Buber “makes reading very difficult.”
Indeed, he does, but there are many bits in the book that I’ve been turning over in my mind, including one in which Buber talks about the “eternal origin of art,” and how art often comes knocking: “something appears to the soul and demands the soul’s creative power. What is required is a deed that a man does with his whole being.”
This deed “involves a sacrifice and a risk.”
“infinite possibility is surrendered on the altar of the form; all that but a moment ago floated playfully through one’s perspective has to be exterminated; none of it may penetrate into the work; the exclusiveness of such a confrontation demands this.”
“Whoever commits himself may not hold back part of himself; and the work does not permit me, as a tree or man might, to seek relaxation in the It-world; it is imperious: if I do not serve it properly, it breaks, or it breaks me.”
This is a bit lofty for me, but I do like this idea of a sacrifice and a risk, and it speaks to why we sometimes don’t make The Thing we are called to make.
The sacrifice is that doing The Thing requires not doing everything else we might like to do, at least when we’re actually making The Thing.
The risk is that The Thing just might not work — in Buber’s words, it will break, or it will break us.
The risk, surprisingly, seems much easier to me. Something will break us, eventually, so why not The Thing? And if The Thing breaks, well, it didn’t even exist before we tried to bring it forth, now, did it?
The sacrifice, on the other hand… the sacrifice seems much tougher. Letting go of all the possibilities to focus on the one, and to imagine the alternate universes we’re denying, that can cause existential FOMO.
But to simply know that some sacrifice and some risk is required for The Thing, that seems helpful to me.