When our two souls stand up erect and strong,
Face to face, silent, drawing nigh and nigher,
Until the lengthening wings break into fire
At either curvèd point,—what bitter wrong
Can the earth do to us, that we should not long
Be here contented? Think. In mounting higher,
The angels would press on us and aspire
To drop some golden orb of perfect song
Into our deep, dear silence. Let us stay
Rather on earth, Belovèd,—where the unfit
Contrarious moods of men recoil away
And isolate pure spirits, and permit
A place to stand and love in for a day,
With darkness and the death-hour rounding it.
--Elizabeth Barret Browning
All actual life is encounter.
It is never easy to truly see someone. And few blessings in this lifetime can compare with the feeling that one enjoys when truly and completely seen by another.
It is noble to empathize with another person’s pain, joy, or experience. One needs to turn aside from his usual preoccupations, take a step from self, and focus on the other person’s life for a while. But that is still not completely seeing the other and standing in total relation to him. That is sharing your being with his.
The encounter of two people at the deepest level, to the extent of utter communion, is when they truly see each other...see all and unleash all that there is to be seen...see nothing else.
That encounter cannot be reached with a supercilious comfort and casualness. It is the labor of a lifetime; it is the deepest experience of life itself. It is the ability to be submerged in the other, to experience the other fully. Only "pure spirits" willing to lose all sight of any distractions that will hold them back from dissolving into the immediacy of the other and to become exclusively present in the one who they are deeply seeing can "stand up erect and strong/Face to face, silent, drawing nigh and nigher,/Until the lengthening wings break into fire."
One of the greatest humanists of our time, Martin Buber, wrote an entire work about this goal - I and Thou.
He built an entire philosophy of relations between man and man, and man and God, by explaining that we are constantly faced with the choice of living in two radically different worlds--the "World of Thou" or the "World of It." This is based on his relating to other men and objects with two opposite attitudes. "To man the world is twofold, in accordance with his twofold nature." He can see them as objects to be viewed, observed, and utilized. As "It"s. Or--
"If I confront a human being as my Thou, and say the primary word I-You to him, then he is not a thing among things, and does not consist of things. He is no longer He or She, limited by other Hes and Shes, a specific point in space and time within the net of the world; nor is he a condition that can be experienced and described, a loose bundle of named qualities. Neighborless ans seamless, he is You and fills the heavens. This does not mean that nothing exists except him. But all else lives in his light."
"Every actual relationship to another being in the world is exclusive. Its You is freed and steps forth to confront us in its uniqueness."
"I-You can only be spoken with the whole being."
Buber then goes on to explain that in truth, every You experience, every seeing of the other with wholeness and devotion, is essentially an experience of God Himself.
"Extended, the lines of relationships intersect in the Eternal You. Every single You is a glimpse of that."
To the extent that even one who "fancies that he is godless--when he addresses with his whole devoted being the You of his life that cannot be restricted by any other, he addresses God."
And just as when submerged in a terrestrial You, all the rest of life and reality is viewed solely through his light and based on the exclusive relationship with him, so, too, with the Eternal You.
"In the relation to God, unconditional exclusiveness and unconditional inclusiveness are one. He who enters into the absolute relationship, nothing particular retains any importance--neither things nor beings, neither earth nor heaven--but, yet, everything is included in the relationship. For to step into the pure relationship does not involve ignoring everything, but seeing everything in the You, not renouncing the world but to establish it on its true basis. To look away from the world, or to stare at it, does not help a man to reach God; but he who sees the world in Him stands in His presence. "Here world, there God" is the language of It; "God in the world" is another language of It ; but leaving out nothing, leaving behind nothing at all, to include the whole world in the You, to give the world its due and its truth, to have nothing besides God but to grasp everything in Him-that is the perfect relationship.
Men do not find God if they stay in the world. They do not find Him if they leave the world. Whoever goes forth to his You with his whole being, and carries to Him all the being of the world, finds Him who cannot be sought.
Of course God is the "wholly Other";but He is also the wholly Same, the wholly Present. Of course He is the Mysterium Tremendum that appears and overwhelms; but He is also the mystery of the obvious, nearer to me than my own I."
To live life with intensity and meaning, to stand in exclusive relationship with God by seeing Him in all. To be like the cherubs that always not only face each other, but also see each other, with "lengthening wings [that] break into fire/At either curvèd point." Like two people content to revel in each other's being with devotion and wholeheartedness--to be like that with God, to see the Eternal You as one relates to reality with deliberateness and meaning.
The most important thing is to habituate oneself, to train the thought and mind to recall at all times, that all he sees in the heavens and the earth and all therein are but the outer garments of the King that is enclothed in them.
--Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, Tanya 42
Turn your eyes from me;
they overwhelm me.
they overwhelm me.
-- Song of Songs 6
See that caravan of camels
loaded up with sugar?
His eyes contain that much sweetness.
But don’t look into His eyes
unless you’re ready to lose all sight of your own.