What are the qualities we use to define what humanity is? I’d been considering this, recalling a friend’s question about a gifted and generous woman we know: “How could the Angels put so much humanity in one person?”
When a friend (I’ll call him Ben) moved to a larger home, I saw a piece of art I had not before. It’s a large screenprint on Lenox museum board by Andy Warhol of a man I did not recognize. “That’s Martin Buber, from Warhol’s ‘Ten Portraits of Jews of the Twentieth Century Series’ .” Oh. Nice.
Right. Martin Buber. Another friend had shared a page or two of the man’s writing. It went right over my head.
Ben, sometime later, brought me a cut out New Yorker article, by Adam Kirsch, that his mother had sent him about this “Jewish philosopher best known for the philosophy of dialogue.” It included a picture of the picture—a nice concurrence. I had the chance to look at Buber again—his mug as well as a very small sample of his writing.
I am glad I got to revisit a teeny, tiny corner of this man’s oeuvre. Kirsch writes:
“At the heart of Buber’s theology was his theory of dialogue—his idea that what matters is not understanding God in abstract, intellectual terms but, rather, entering into a relationship with [God].”
Buber taught this relationship is only possibly when we engage in real relationship with each other. That is, doing something important together.
A teaching in the New Message puts it this way:
“God wants you to heal your relationship with others, for in doing this, you will naturally be able to reclaim God unto yourself.” (—from Relationships and Higher Purpose, ch. 3, Your Relationship with Others)
Martin Buber concerned himself with the heart of religion, what he called “religiosity.” He thought religious dogma “uncreative and therefore untrue.”
“Whoever expects of me a doctrine…will invariably be disappointed.” —Martin Buber
Buber’s learned ancestor, Hillel the Elder, said much the same to a pagan would-be covert who asked to be taught the entire Torah while he stood on one leg. Hillel replied:
“What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. The rest is dogma. Now go forth and learn.”
Another great teacher, born at the same time Hillel was teaching, grew up to say it this way:
“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12
What are the qualities we need to practice to enact the Golden Rule? Again, the New Message speaks to this in many of its Sacred texts.
“Humility, patience, perseverance, honesty, discretion, discernment—all essential qualities for true accomplishment.” —from the revelation, Discerning False Messengers
Add to these admirable qualities forgiveness, devotion, recognition, compassion and especially the ability to see the world without judgment. It clouds the vision. One can neither love nor serve something that one judges.
Steps to Knowledge, the Book of Inner Knowing (free online), provides the preparation to develop these abilities. From Step 18, Today I feel the truth arising within myself:
“KNOWLEDGE DOES NOT SPEAK TO YOU AT EVERY MOMENT, but it always holds a message for you. To come into the proximity of Knowledge means that you become more and more like Knowledge itself—more whole, more consistent, more honest, more devoted, more concentrated, more self-disciplined, more compassionate and more self-loving. All of these qualities are developed as you approach that which is the source of these qualities.”
I think Professor Buber would agree.