5. The Reality of the Narrow Ridge
|Cliffs of Moher, June, 2008|
If anything expresses Buber’s existentialism in a nutshell it is this potent image of “narrow ridge” which he uses in his essay What is Man? (1938). The full quotation runs thus:
I have occasionally described my standpoint to my friends as the "narrow ridge” I wanted by this to express that I did not rest on the broad upland of a system that includes a series of sure statements about the absolute, but on a narrow rocky ridge between the gulfs where there is no sureness of expressible knowledge but the certainty of meeting what remains undisclosed. 
The phrase “narrow ridge” seems to me to catch at once the lived quality of Buber’s life as well as the existential thrust of his thought. It also captures the sheer insecurity of the human condition and its problematic state as he both lived it and reflected upon it. Buber’s “narrow ridge” is no “happy middle ground” It is a dialogical state where one encounters life in all its wholeness, where one is open to be changed in that encounter with the other in the authenticity of one’s own being. It embraces the good and the evil, the white and the black and the myriads of shades in between. Roger’s “in-between” space, I argue, is no “narrow ridge” but rather a more spacious and commodious consultation room where one can rest somewhat less troubled.
Dialogue can often be unpredictable, somewhat unruly and even sometimes uncontrollable as is evidenced say, for example, in the dialogue leading by way of seemingly unending hours of encounter with the opposing side up to the watershed of The Good Friday Agreement in Belfast in April 1998. It leads us into an in-between space where we encounter one another in our heights and in our depths; in our greatness and in our littleness; in our strengths and in our weaknesses; in the sheer vulnerability of our naked truth. It leaves us open to change and to be changed, to grow in acceptance (confirmation/recognition) of self and of others. Whatever about the divergences we outlined above, we find that the convergences between Buber and Rogers have major implications for our cherishing of one another and for our fundamental well being as we seek to negotiate our authentic path through life. The Rogerian core conditions and Buber’s theory of encounter as an I-Thou relationship essentially allow the person of the other to flourish whether that be in a hospital bed where hopefully the medical personnel will not "default to mere competent professionalism, forgetting to talk directly to the scared flesh-and-blood man bearing the disease" or in a classroom, or courtroom or at home with our loved ones. We have much to be thankful for to these two great exponents of well being in the form of dialogical encounter and positive psychology for mapping the territory of human relationships and showing us what may be possible if only we have the courage to encounter the other in our and their authentic truth.
 Buber, Between Man and Man (1979, 223)
 Quoted in Scott et al (2009, 1-2). The quotation is attributed to New York Times editor Dana Jennings.
Adame, A.L. and Leitner, L.M. (2011) Dialogical Constructivism: Martin Buber’s Enduring Relevance to Psychotherapy. Journal of Humanistic Psychology 51(1), pp. 41–60
Anderson, R. and Cissna, K.N. (1997) The Martin Buber-Carl Rogers Dialogue: A New Transcript with Commentary, State University of New York Press, NY.
Buber, M. (1958) I and Thou (translated by Ronald Gregor Smith), 2nd Edition, New York: Scribners.
Buber, M. (1966) Between Man and Man, with afterward on the Dialogical principle translated by Maurice Friedman, The Macmillan Company, NY.
Buber, M. (1979) Between Man and Man. Fount Paperbacks, Collins, Glascow.
Buber, M. (2006) The Way of Man. Citadel Press Books, NY.
Buber, M. (2006) Ten Rungs. Citadel Press Books, NY.
Buber, M. (2010) I and Thou (translated by Ronald Gregor Smith), 2nd Edition, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York.
Cissna, K.N. (2011). Studying Communication, Confirmation and Dialogue. Dialogically Speaking: Maurice Friedman’s Interdisciplinary Humanism. (ed. K.P. Kramer), Oregon.
Cohen, D. (1997). Carl Rogers: A Critical Biography. Constable, London.
Friedman, M (1994) Reflections on the Buber-Rogers Dialogue, Journal of Humanistic Psychology, Vol 34(1), Win, 1994. Special issue: Dialogue. pp. 46-65.
Giustiniani, V.R. (1985) Homo, Humanus, and the Meanings of Humanism. Journal of the History of ideas, Volume: 46 Issue: 2, pp. 167-195.
Gordon, M. (2011) Listening as embracing the other: Martin Buber’s Philosophy of Dialogue. Educational Theory, Volume 61, Number 2, pp. 207-219.
Hederman OSB, P. (2011) The Spirituality of Leadership: Buber and Education. Keynote address at ERST Conference Cherishing and Challenging the Spirit of the Educator, Keadeen Hotel, Newbidge, Kildare 20/11/2012. Comments in this paper are based on notes the author took on the day.
MacQuarrie, J. (1967) Twentieth Century Religious Thought. SCM Press, London.
MacQuarrie, J. (1977) Existentialism, Pelican, Harmondsworth, Middlesex.
Mayhall, C.W. and Mayhall, T.B. (2004) On Buber, Thompson Wadsworth, Belmont, California.
Mearns, D. and Thorne, B. (1988, 2007) Person-Centred Counselling in Action, Third Edition, Sage Publications, London.
Merill, C. (2008) Carl Rogers and Martin Buber in Dialogue: The Meeting of Divergent Paths.The Person-Centered Journal, Vol. 15, No. 1-2, 2008, 4-12
Rabinowitz, I. (ed) (1998), Inside Therapy, St Martin’s Press, New York
Rogers, C.R. (1951), Client-Centered Therapy, Countable & Robinson Ltd., London.
Rogers, C.R. (1967), On Becoming a Person: a therapist’s view of psychotherapy, Constable & Company, London.
Rogers, C.R. and Stevens, B. (eds.) (1975) Person to Person: The Problem of being Human. Pocket Books, New York.
Rogers, C.R. (1980), A Way of Being, Houghton Mifflin, Boston and New York.
Scott, J & R, Miller, W., Strange, K and Crabtree, B (2009). Healing relationships and the existential philosophy of Martin Buber. Philosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine, 2009:4: 11, on-line journal: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2733137/ Accessed 12/02/2012.
Sidorkinin, A (2004), "Martin Buber" Meets Martin Buber. Journal of Philosophy of Education.
Thorne, B. (1992), Carl Rogers: Key Figures in Counselling and Psychotherapy, Sage Publications, London.
Thorne, B. (1998), “Spirituality and the Counsellor” in Questions and Answers on Counselling in Action (ed. Windy Dryden), Sage Publications, London.
Tubbs, N. (2005) The Spiritual Teacher. Journal of Philosophy of Education, Vol. 39, No. 2, pp. 287-317.