The I-Thou encounter has an inherent egalitarianism that dissolves self-interest. As Buber outlined, in the human realm there is no full escape from the I-It – we also love people for dull, functional reasons; we make selfish use even of our soulmates. But at the core, the I-Thou always demands vulnerability, weakness, a cracking of the hard shell of the egoistic self. Real love, the sort of love people wander through their lives craving, wants above all to distance itself from lust by shedding its preening self-regard. Falling in love is partly the terrifying realisation that you have stepped into reciprocity; that someone is now able to cause you terrible pain.

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Malcolm Blaney

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Malcolm Blaney

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