The Jewish philosopher and theologian, author of the celebrated book, “I and Thou,” said “All real living is meeting.” At those moments when we feel fully alive, awake to and aware of the present moment, there is always a sense of meeting. But what or who are we meeting and is there any way in which we can make these meetings happen?
Buber went on to say that these meetings take place with nature, with humans and animals, when we are being creative or receiving (truly meeting) someone else’s creation and of course, with God. But the main thing to take on board is that such meetings can only happen in the present moment. Just as we are only truly alive when we live in the present moment (not in memories of the past or dreams of the future) so the real meeting of one with another can only happen in the present.
This is why that sense of real meeting is so ephemeral. The most vivid experience once over can only be recalled in memory. We know we have been there; we have a lingering taste of the experience; we may have been changed for ever by the meeting that took place, but we can no longer enter acutely and at will into that same emotional space. It is past.
What does Buber mean by “meeting?” He is describing sacred space, a place where I am available to the Other. I can only be available when I am aware of the sacredness of the Other; when my own self-centred agenda is held in check and I consciously open myself to receive. If I walk out of my front door in the morning with a head full of stuff, my “to do” list, my desire to impress my will onto the world, I will not be available to receive God’s world, which is offering itself to me all around me. If I am with another person and I do not make a real effort to give them space and time, to still my mouth and to listen, I simply will not see them. Without realising it I will stereotype and judge them according to my will, experience and knowledge.
Even as I sit down to silent prayer I can be led astray if what I do within that prayer shuts out a sense of the Other. In prayer, in worship, in reading scripture there needs to be a concerted effort to be aware of the Other, whether you understand that Other as within or without yourself.
All real living is meeting which means all real living is relationship. This is what we find in Jesus’ description of his closeness to and dependence on the Father. This is what we understand in the doctrine of the Trinity. And this is what teaches us that we need to try to practice the sacredness of the present moment, to hold back on our own agendas so that we may meet whatever the day gives.