The Greeks were fascinated by the truth, but their truth is understandably a system that embraces man’s search for himself and his (her) place in the cosmic order.
Maybe it’s precisely this insight that attracts us to the old Hellenes, because like us they essentially sought to understand the grinded cosmic order underlining their chaotic world overshadowed by Mount Olympus and its undisciplined deities candidly resembling the poor mortals underneath. But perhaps the gods were deftly intended to focus on man’s frustrated inability to outdo his mortality.
Yes, the I-understand might be alluring if one holds himself (herself) to be wiser, though old Socrates might disagree despite Delphi’s affirmation that none was wiser: he knew better, for while others considered themselves sagacious, at least he knew that he wasn’t. Paradoxically, he proved the oracle correct! Of course, exposing ignorance can be dangerous – maybe, unless better off dead, it’s best to let others think themselves wiser. But is there an alternative?
The biblical text provide us with a different understanding: rather than a system, truth is an encountered unfolding story where the protagonists, cuddled within the “Beit-Sefer” (the-house-of-the-book), doggedly argue their way through an oddly ordered curiosity as questions and answers aspire to a shared understanding – a learning experience really, as old insights provide the means to greater newer insights, though these, discerningly, are not interested in imposing a definite conclusion.
Buber’s “Ich-Du” (I-Thou) perspective might thus offer an interaction of insights aimed at opening unmarked doors to greater insights. Of course the biblical text has its own vocabulary: words that need to be understood within their proper milieu, since they are disinclined to embracing impositions that ignore their refined intentions.
As one struggles to establish an “I-Thou” relationship with the word, thus infiltrating the spaces separating each letter, new insights are gained. Of course, we are entering into an unfamiliar but awkwardly resilient cosmos: that of the Hebrew Alphabet. Accompanying Alice through her looking glass, words permit us to exceed its echoing barriers: they may also provide us with an allusion to the ‘new-found’ experience envisaged by the ancient alphabet.
But before we venture further it’s important not to ignore solitude. Yes, because despite the disputed aroma of the “Beit-Sefer”, solitude is still visibly researched: oddly, religion itself transforms itself into a redemptive solitude of sorts as one struggles to encounter the Wholly Other. This affirmation should not surprise us, because one key term to infiltrating the richness of the biblical Text – Old or New, First or Second, Testaments – words can be an eye-opener to one’s contentions – is “journey”. A searchingly intended journey as man (woman) and the Wholly Other struggle as they encounter each other.
This is a strange journey, because “listening” underlines its symphonic movements. Of course listening should not be confused with mere passivity: rather, it implies a willingness to exercise one’s intelligence, which unpredictably underlines true dialogue. After all, as the Midrash points out, if God called Abraham, He did so only because the old man bothered to address a listening God; questioning Him – another story that who knows when, is worth narrating.
Conversely, let not our pious sensibility blind us to the hard facts for as the Talmud informs us, a subtle relation exists between God and Abraham – it was he who after all initiated the journey! God nags Abraham: “If it wasn’t for Me, you wouldn’t exist.” Abraham retorted: “Lord, while apprehensive and grateful, if it wasn’t for me, You wouldn’t be known.” Yes, the tenets within these sacred pages are, as Rosen (The Talmud and the Internet: A Journey Between Worlds) points out, a constant source of dispute and interpretation: as soon as one has an answer to some arising problem, one finds himself (herself) imitating Chagall’s soaring images, thus searching for solutions to arising auxiliary situations.
Re-entering our cosmic order, this Talmudic experience evokes a familiar experience – one envisaged by Internet as emulated bees buzz from one site to another. Entering a site searching for answers, one curiously dives into other sites and auxiliary topics, because answers provoke more questions. But it’s precisely this questioning that enriches our answers, because truth – a multidimensional experience – calls for a personal encounter. Maybe, it’s precisely for this reason that someone once affirmed: “ani emeth…” (I am the truth…).