I got a great question from martial artist and myofascial maestro Devin Ronaldson that I’d like to share with y’all.
How does it affect I/you relationships that in some languages there is a plural you? Every romance language has one. Can one have an I/you relationship with more than one “you”? I/yous? I/y’all?
Beautiful! The You of I-You is unique. There is only one YOU. When I address a roomful of people, it’s just You—not you and you and you and you. Distinguishing the individuals in a group where I emphasized their separateness would make it I-It. Second person plural could go either way, depending on your intent.
Whoever says You does not have something for his object. For wherever there is something there is also another something; every It borders on other Its; It is, only by virtue of bordering on others. But where You is said there is no something. You has no borders.
Whoever says You does not have something; he has nothing. But he stands in relation. -Martin Buber
So how do I know when it’s I-You or I-It? When it’s I-It, I am very much aware of who all is there and their qualities, including ME and my qualities.
For example, if am trying to resolve a squabble between two children, I have to address them as separate entities. I-IT. I listen to their stories and make note of the emotional state of each. I must be able to abstract each of them into something I can understand, and that means objectify them. It’s the only way I can sort them out. Once I have a clear picture, I can address them as I-You—individually or together.
Ah, but when I meet multiple persons as one YOU…well we have the opportunity for some serious ju ju. There is ONLY the relation. Think the great orators…like Lincoln, JFK, and MLK. They roused the spirit!
Henry Fonda at the end of Grapes of Wrath. Everyone listening knew, “They are talking to ME!” Bruce Springsteen in concert. Or that all-time great: St. Crispin’s Day speech from Henry V! Who doesn’t want to go out and do battle when they hear that one?
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.
We need both I-It and I-You. We only know meaning in I-It. We only connect with each other in I-You. Ideally, we shift back and forth as needed, with groups as well individuals.