Love is Responsibility of an I for a You

Today I’ve been married to my wife for four years. And I thought what better way to celebrate it than to continue talking about the place of love in dialogical philosophy. (It’s okay she’s used to me.)

Feelings accompany the metaphysical and metapsychical fact of love, but they do not constitute it; and the feelings that accompany it can be very different. Jesus’ feeling for the possessed man is different from his feeling for the beloved disciple; but the love is one. Feelings one “has”; love occurs. Feelings dwell in man, but man dwells in his love. This is no metaphor but actuality: love does not cling to an I, as if the You were merely its “content” or object; it is between I and You. Whoever does not know this, know this with his being, does not know love, even if he should ascribe to it the feelings that he lives through, experiences, enjoys, and expresses. Love is a cosmic force. For those who stand in it and behold in it, men emerge from their entanglement in busy-ness; and the good and the evil, the clever and the foolish, the beautiful and the ugly, one after another become actual and You for them; that is, liberated, emerging into a unique confrontation. Exclusiveness comes into being miraculously again and again–and now one can act, help heal, educate, raise, redeem. Love is responsibility of an I for a You: in this consists what cannot consist in any feeling–the equality of lovers, from the smallest to the greatest and from the blissfully secure whose life is circumscribed by the life of one beloved human being to him that is nailed his life long to the cross of the world, capable of what is immense and bold enough to risk it: to love man.

– Martin Buber, I and Thou

Love is a cosmic force, that we dwell in, between I and You. When I saw my wife coming to the altar as Marek Raczyński’s beautiful version of “Sicut lilium inter spinas” was being sung, I wish I had already known these words to better understand the mystery in that moment.


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