Thursday, July 21, 2016

I -Thou and We-Thou

A relatively short post that is also unusual for having only one Big Idea instead of the usual scattershot of fully half-baked ones...

Continuing our plunge into the heart of the Trinity, Spitzer writes that the first two of its Persons, Father and Son, "form a unity of interpersonal love through the one unrestricted power" (which we have compared to "beyond-being").

In turn, the Holy Spirit is "not simply the beloved of either the Father or the Son," but rather, the "beloved of the union between Father and Son."

That won't be clear until we flesh it out a bit. If the relation between Father and Son is that of "I-Thou," then you might say that the Spirit introduces a kind of "We-Thou" relation, with the We being the Father-Son "couple" -- as in how the child is welcomed into the marital-we (which goes to the intrinsic ontological defect of willed single parenthood, divorce, and newly invented caricatures of marriage; or in other words it is the denial of the gift of a healthy and natural We to the child).

As Spitzer describes it, love "need not be only an outpouring of self," but "can also be an outpouring of an us" -- that is, a gift of the union of the two; or, it is the two welcoming a third into its union of love. We fall in love with another person, but the love we give a child isn't only of a dyadic nature, especially from the child's point of view.

Is this a subtle point, or is it obvious? I'll just speak from my own experience. My parents rarely got along. Either it was a cold war or they were bickering about God-knows-what. I remember this lack of harmony causing a kind of familiar but nameless pain in me.

However, there were moments of harmony, in which they were kind and affectionate to one another, and for me, it was as if a light from above were penetrating the darkness below. There was a great sense of relief, and everything felt "right" in that moment. I remember one time in particular, when they were walking ahead of me, holding hands. The feeling of peace was very distinct -- as if all was right with the world -- but obviously different from merely being loved by one's individual parent.

To the contrary, I never doubted that my mother and father loved me. But that is in the I-Thou realm. The problem was in the We-Thou realm. I knew they would never divorce, but nevertheless, it was a rocky we they bequeathed to me.

I think this is why, to this day, I can't stand any kind of Disturbance in the Force in my house. I have a peculiar need to avoid interpersonal stress and conflict around here. As a result, my son is having a very different experience of the We than I had. Rather, his background environment is one of a harmonious and loving We, and the effect on him is obvious. He has to visit other homes in order to get the sense of a distressed and unhappy We.

The point is, just as we can trace the love between persons back to the Trinity, so too can we trace the love between two persons and a third: just as there is a loving space between the I and Thou, there is a new loving space between the We and Thou.

Here is how Spitzer describes it: "This occurs in marriage where a couple can give its 'us' (its collective self) to another person by welcoming that person into the relationship. One can generally tell when a couple has this loving quality as a relational whole because their invitation is harmonious and welcoming."

Of note, it's not just children who are so welcomed, but anyone else who enters the relational orbit. We have a couple of married friends who are passionately devoted to one another, but at the same time, extremely extroverted, such that to be around them is to enter a... I hate to sound corny, but it is a very palpable We of love.

Conversely, according to Spitzer, "If this quality of the 'us' is not there, or if there is a problem causing a disruption in the relationship, it is immediately discernible." As in the case of my parents. Or, think of the uniquely dysfunctional nature of the We between Bill and Hillary Clinton. I use the word "unique" advisedly, because I've never seen anything like it -- a seemingly loveless political crime family rooted in a cunning will to power. What a perverse We!

In any event, "when Christians say that God is love, they do not mean only that the attribute of love belongs to the one infinite nature of God." Rather, "that there is real interpersonal love (gift of self and gift of the 'us') taking place through three perfect acts of self-consciousness..."


julie said...

Beautiful post.

I think this is why, to this day, I can't stand any kind of Disturbance in the Force in my house. I have a peculiar need to avoid interpersonal stress and conflict around here. As a result, my son is having a very different experience of the We than I had.

Yes, I - or rather, we - can relate; my parents did divorce, while my husband's parents were perhaps more like yours. Our children will not know what it's like to live with parents who are turned against each other. As to the relation of happily married friends, concur. It is really a blessing to be around such people.

Rick said...

This post resonates. Plus, I think I was adopted. By that I mean, my parents' relationship is like a foreign country compared to me + wife.

I hope I shall never forget the advise you gave here once, Bob, something like, the best thing a father can do for his daughter is to show her how much he loves his wife.

Also, strangely, the parting song at our wedding was Sea of Love.

Allena said...

Thanks for this post, Bob.
I hope and pray Mrs. G feels better soon.

Joan of Argghh! said...

Do we tell you often enough, Bob, how blessed we are by the Raccoon We that has formed here?

This post is the apogee of the blog. Until the next one, of course! But it's more than a foray into the intellectual pantry, it's a raid on Heaven's own Source and a rebuke to man's poor imitations and perversions of it.

Gagdad Bob said...

Gosh. Just when I start to wonder whether the blog is serving a purpose anymore, the reporting of an apogee-whizz experience.

Van Harvey said...

Racoon speaking French: "We we."

Nice,timely, post.

Leslie Godwin said...

"We have a couple of married friends who are passionately devoted to one another, but at the same time, extremely extroverted, such that to be around them is to enter a... I hate to sound corny, but it is a very palpable We of love."

My experience of being with them is similar to what it feels like when someone is a witness to Christ. You have an experience being with them of what it is like to share love and to be loved. I spend more time with the wife (she runs the Bible study I'm in) and she talks about her marriage and husband all the time. It would be annoying (at best) if she were talking about it in any kind of worldly way. But I typically feel inspired. She is very open about her flaws and you can see her effort to always be a better person and trust God more completely.

When I am with them, the feeling is similar to when I am with someone who is a witness to Christ. They are pointing to something/someone higher, not to themselves. And they want to share God's love with you, as opposed to wanting you to wish you could be as "loved by God" as they are. The smug arrogance of the self-righteous *cough, Ted Cruz, cough* is repellant. The joy of those who are in love with God pulls you toward them and their joy includes you.

Thank you all again for your prayers. I am VERY grateful. I am not online much, but am catching up on Bob's posts here and there. I'm working on putting together a Classical Catholic homeschooling plan for the fall if anyone wants to get in touch by email. If you are already involved with homeschooling or thinking about it, please email if you'd like to share your thoughts. I'm happy to share what I've come up with so far, which is a lot of comparisons of approaches, materials, and some of the day-to-day logistics. gringagirl18 at gmail
Mrs. G

julie said...

Mrs. G, so glad to see your post - how are you feeling?

I've been blessed with a group of friends here who have a similar dynamic: strong marriages, which they carefully and consciously guard and nurture with an eye toward showing God's love. It is just as you say.

Rick said...

If Ted Cruz is so smart, why doesn't he know he's repellant?

Good to see you back on your fingertips, Mrs G. Is it too soon to know if your hip problems were related to your back pain?

Gagdad Bob said...

Funny, our 11 year old is an enthusiastic Trump supporter, even though his parents are just anyone-other-than-Hillary supporters. I gave him the Meyers-Briggs test, and it turns out he's the same personality type as Donald Trump, ESTP. They're both a little... unhinged.

Usually between Democrat and Republican the choice is the evil party vs. the stupid party. But this year the choice is between evil and a bit crazy. Still, I choose crazy over evil.

julie said...

That's funny re. the ESTPs.

And yeah, definitely the crazy over the evil. I watched the speech the other night (which I never usually do); really don't enjoy watching him talk. Even so, it was so good to hear someone speaking bluntly about what is happening in the world, and being unafraid to call the current leadership out on their wrongdoings. One of the things that was so frustrating in past elections was the tendency of Republicans to completely avoid saying anything "controversial" - i.e. truthful - about what the Democrats have been doing. And on the occasion of the rare slip of the tongue, all the censure came crashing down on the one telling the truth. "You lie!" comes to mind.

I honestly don't know what kind of president he'll make, good or bad, but is there really any question what kind of president Hillary would be?

Gagdad Bob said...

Even my son understood that it wasn't a good idea to be going on about Oswald and Cruz's father the day after the speech. Even he has better impulse control than Trump.

julie said...

Yep. All he really needs to do at this point is hold his tongue and leash the crazy; the question is, can he?

Gagdad Bob said...

I don't think he can. But that also makes him all the more difficult for Dems to go after. I'm reading an excellent book about WWII, and that was the problem the allies had in dealing with Hitler. He did things no rational person would do, so thinking and planning based upon what a reasonable person would do backfired. Indeed, it's the same with the Islamists. They do things that are inconceivable to the even minimally sane. Obviously I am not comparing Trump to fascists and Islamists, only highlighting that unpredictability can be a great tactical advantage.

julie said...

Ha - yes. Kind of like playing a strategy-based game against either a child or someone just learning the rules. They don't act the same way the learned strategist would act, and thus their sheer unpredictability works to their advantage.

Gagdad Bob said...

Put another way, the discipline of McCain & Romney got us nowhere.

Rick said...


Rick said...

I find this more disturbing:

julie said...

Rick, definitely. Seizures are not something you want to see in a potential POTUS. On top of all the other reasons she'd be terrible.

Van Harvey said...

I wonder if the email excerpts in this tweet had anything to do with her seizures. If not, odds are that they will!

While I too enjoy The Donald's blunt approach, other than his comment about reducing regulations, there wasn't much in his speech to warm my constitutional heart. But there are at least three but's to that:

1 - A candidate can't run or govern from the perspective of the principles the constitution is founded upon, when the vast majority of the populace doesn't recognize or support them. Way it is, and Trump's probably the best we're capable of at the moment.
2 - Trump, for all his negatives (from my point of view), I've no doubt that he loves... at least Americana (if not quite my idea of America as derived from it fundamental principles).
3 - The left, whether led by Hillary or Bernie, or whoever might need to fill in for them, despises, ridicules and hates everything that is meaningfully American. And she/they would have the full backing of most of congress, agencies, bureaucracy, judiciary, wackademia, media and Hollywood. That cannot happen.

I can't vote for Trump, but I can see who the greater evil is, the Left, and who the most effective tool available is to keep that threat out of the White House, and that's the GOP Nominee - Trump.

I'll vote Trump with a clear conscience.

Trump understands Reality TV. He knows, to his core, how to play and sell to the emotions of the viewing public - I've got little doubt about his winning in November.