Elliot S! Maggin on I and Thou

From an interview published in published in Fanzing (The Independent Online DC Comics Fan Magazine), where Maggin claims he’s studying the Kabbala so he can learn how to fly, here’s Superman writer Elliot S! Maggin on Martin Buber’s I and Thou:

[Buber] was a religious liberal Jew … who used to love calling up his orthodox friends on Saturday morning (Orthodox Jews believe you shouldn’t talk on the phone on Saturday) and gleefully holler “Good Shabbas” over and over into the phone until his more ritually observant friends realized they were the butts of some sort of existential practical joke. I got a sense from Buber of the notion of spiritual religiousness as opposed to – though not necessarily in opposition to – ritual religiousness. He was a very modern old guy, I think. I and Thou is a very short volume that probably ought to be read more slowly than I – as a guy wrapped up in a vital civilization and entangled in a growing culture – would be inclined to do so.

You know, I can translate the premise of Vonnegut’s work to “Dammit, you’ve got to be kind.” But Buber writes pretty much in shorthand to start with. You can sit and ponder his choice of a preposition for hours – which is why I’d take it to isolation with me. It might use up a lot of time I’d otherwise waste learning how to shoot down coconuts with a home-made bow and arrow. (Maybe Ollie Queen would have had a happier life if he’d discovered Buber earlier.) But how’s this: An exploration of the relationship between the individual and his spiritual and sociological environment.

… I think if you want to know about Buber, you might do it by first knowing about Descartes. The Cartesian model first breaks apart everything the individual supposes but doesn’t know for sure, and eliminates it from contention. So what Descartes is left with is the simple understanding: “I think, therefore I am.” From that point, Descartes built a collection of premises based on the axiomatic “truth” of his own existence. Buber was much more spiritual, and I think he was more willing to acknowledge the existence of God than he was to affirm his own “reality.” I kind of like that about him…

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