“Hell is other people” (Sartre). How often this sentence describes our experience of Europeans, stunned by the brutality of this early 21st century and entrapped in the “group solitude” prophesied by the poets (Montale). In a globalised, plural and interconnected world, individualism and nationalism are paradoxically growing at a fast pace, as well as conformism and intolerance.
In our houses, societies and countries, we find it hard to welcome the needs of other people, of our relatives and friends, overwhelmed as we are by our petty problems. We face life worried about dodging the difficulties, fearing that something or someone may disturb our apparent calm. To hide our deep solitude, we anxiously live relationships through social media, which give us a controllable (and therefore virtual) experience of Otherness.
Yet, as the poet John Donne wrote, “No man is an island.” At the very nature of human experience there is the encounter with something “other” than ourselves. Every person is marked by a history made up of faces and relationships, without which, he would not exist.
This is not just an avoidable fact, but our greatest resource, as was evident to us especially when we were children. It is more than simply recognising the value of the Other or celebrating diversity, but rather, acknowledging that the Other represents something good, a benefit, or joy for oneself.
Indeed, we need the Other’s face to enjoy life and to discover a reason for our existence. We need love, we need relationships, we need a community where we can share projects, sacrifices, fears and joys. Even nations can look with hope to the future only by recognising in other people and other countries a good and an opportunity for themselves.
But how can we rediscover the world outside ourselves as an opportunity? How can we let ourselves be hurt, struck and shaken by the presence of others? Only through an experience that ‘the Other’ is actually a good for me.
The aim of London Encounter 2016 is to provide a space for this experience. Through its meetings, exhibitions and testimonies, The London Encounter will be a bridge to cross in order to “sail off the island”, searching for the beauty of the Other.
We will be looking at people in history who have gone through a similar journey, such as Jacob and his large family, or the Dutch writer Etty Hillesum, reborn by an encounter in the midst of the horror of the Holocaust. We will explore the history of Europe, to search out from our past what is missing in our present.
Finally, and above all, we invite you to share this journey with us: every person coming to The London Encounter is the greatest resource for this experience of beauty, which is the reason we create The London Encounter and is what we wish to offer to the world.
Patron of 2016 Edition Rt Rev. and the Rt Hon. Lord Rowan Williams.
07.30 pm What is music? In this event we explore music from its origins to the artistic creations of the great composers. What lies behind... Read More
The London Encounter
The London Encounter is a cultural event involving exhibitions, presentations and discussions which, each in their own way, are intended to provoke us to ask: what do we truly desire, what are we living for, and how can we best face the challenges of life?
It is a place of dialogue for people of all backgrounds and experiences.