It wasn’t something Gwen could’ve anticipated. She always had a bright, inquisitive mind. As a result she devoured books. Ideas were her playthings. Sometimes those ideas got along. Often they clashed. Over the years a few ideas became the foundational to her world view.
In her mind these ideas took the form of people. Two of these people, heroes of her mind, became the greatest source of inner conflict.
On one side was Vanek, the character created by Czech playwright Vaclav Havel. He personified the blessed solitude. He wanted to be left to live in peace. It was a strong desire of Gwen to be left alone. In Vanek she found a kindred spirit.
Martin Buber sat on the other side of the conflict. Gwen read I and Thou the summer after her first year at university. She was intoxicated by the nature of the I-Thou, a relationship of profound mutual concern and servanthood. In her mind the I-Thou was represented by the picture of Martin Buber on her copy of I and Thou.
Gwen sat silently for hours as Vanek and Buber debated.
“We were meant to live in intimacy, not only with God but each other,” said Buber.
“Why? Why must we be so involved?” said Vanek.
“It’s God’s intention in creation. He seeks it with us. And so doing it becomes possible with each other,” said Buber.
“I understand. You speak in ideals. I live in the human creation called communism. The Party wants to know every intimate detail of my life, but cares nothing for me. As long as I submit to their wishes. My world knows nothing of your ideals. All I want is that The Party, with all it’s control, allows me to live in peace,” said Vanek. He looked tired.
Buber thought for a moment. “The Party of which you speak treats you as an object, a means to an end. That is not the I-Thou, where both sides seek after the needs of the other,” he said.
“What if all I need is to be left alone?” said Vanek.
“Life, then, exists as a series of I-It relationships; shallow, utilitarian, unconnected. That runs contrary to the nature of creation,” said Buber.
“What’s wrong with that?” said Vanek.
“We were created for something more,” said Buber.
Gwen sighed. The debate waged on.