Martin Buber and Existence as an Encounter

Martin_Buber_and_Rabbi_Binyamin
Martin Buber is the non-Rabbi on the right.

Slightly ill and hunting for game names I was for no good reason reminded of an essay I wrote in high school about the German philosopher Martin Buber. I remembered absolutely nothing about this save that there was some business about one’s existence being validated by the experience of one other involved in it. Or something like that.

Having had trawled enough Latin proverbs and Shakespearean waffle for pretentious titles, I decided to go on an extremely brief refresher course about this person with a slightly hilarious surname. Martin Buber primarily concerned himself with the Philosophy of Dialogue, when he was attempting to perpetuate adult Jewish education in Nazi-incumbent Germany. He wrote a thesis he called Ich und Du, which posited encounter as the basis for existence. You may already see where I’m going with this.

Looking at a thing and existing.
Looking at a thing and existing.

The Ich-Du relationship is a concept predicated on the mutual and holistic existence of two beings. Ich-Du is slightly difficult to convey in a language that isn’t German – Du implying a closeness or intimacy that most other languages don’t have a proper pronoun for. English translations waver between I-You and I-Thou, both not really making the cut as far as approximation is concerned. Regardless. When two entities encounter one another, the very act of the encounter functions as a validation of existence, or better still, is the actual gist of existence. We exist because we encounter. In relating to the other, we are made real, perceivable, actual.

Buber mentions some examples. Two lovers, an observer and a cat, the author and a tree, and two strangers on a train. Each of these might make interesting games in and of themselves. The parallels between this thought of Ich-Du and the content I’ve been fumbling with in this project is distinct. Somehow this must form the core of the game – not the external stimuli, which are there primarily to give the gamer of the self a mechanical drive for acting. The person he or she is inadvertently (or advertently) portraying is to be validated by the one playing the other, and together, they are then existent.

Other words given for this relationship, more commonly, include encounter, meeting, dialogue, mutuality, and exchange. These are all easily justified and lazily thrown into the design, but I’d like to avoid that. As an artist you are rarely very accountable for the shit you pull, and haphazardly throwing in some idly-researched philosopher is not something I want to do – or at least be ostentatiously seen doing. So I’ll be throwing some more research in this direction, and se if more mechanical elements can be extrapolated from its hide. If not, I’ll go with the lazy implementation and by slightly ashamed of myself.

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