A dialogical relation will show itself also in genuine conversation, but it is not composed of this. …On the other hand, all conversation derives its genuineness only from the consciousness of the element of inclusion—even if this appears only abstractly as an “acknowledgement” of the actual being of the partner in the conversation; but this acknowledgement can be real and effective only when it springs from an experience of inclusion, of the other side.
-Martin Buber, Between Man and Man (London: Routledge, 1947).
One vision of the I-Thou encounter may appear in the often-parodied cult film My Dinner with Andre. For anyone who hasn’t seen MDWA, the synopsis is as follows: two friends get together for dinner, and wind up having a really deep conversation. Much of the beginning of the film consists of the Apollonian Wally listening somewhat skeptically to the strange spiritual experiences recounted by his more Dionysian friend Andre. But it’s only when Wally starts to challenge Andre on the deeper significance of his new-age adventures that the conversation becomes compelling. As described in this blog entry from Prof. Azly Rahman:
At the dinner table hence, we saw a meeting of beings, one with a “world consciousness” of the “I-it” and one of “I-Thou” as in Wally and Andre respectively. It is a meeting not merely of two people possessing of (or being possessed by) a varying amount of economic/material capital but of metaphysical/spiritual capital. The movie could also have been titled “The Re-education of Wally and Andre” in that only when there is, as Buber term[ed] the inclusionary aspect of the parallel monologues can genuine dialogue happen. When Wally was probing into what lies in the consciousness of Andre for a great length of the conversation, he is merely excluding himself from the dialogue. Similarly, when Andre was narrating his metaphysical escapades, he is largely excluding himself from the transformative realm. But when Wally started to question the “meaninglessness” to him, of Andre’s “fantastic stories”, a genuine dialogue was about to be established and one which perhaps would have a lasting effect on both characters. Through this thesis–anti-thesis of this stage of the dialogue, we saw a remarkable moment of the meeting of the I with the Thou in the dialogue itself (and not between the interlocutors as persons).