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The Shape of New York Encounter, 2021 Edition

New York Encounter is asking for input on the theme and format for the upcoming year. Patrick, a member of the core team that creates the program for the Encounter, spoke with the Newsletter about the proposal.

The Opening of New York Encounter 2020

CLN: When I read the New York Encounter statement, "The Density of this Moment," I was struck by the word “density.” Where did that come from? 

Patrick: There is so much in this moment. It is dense in the sense of being weighty, heavy, difficult. There is so much of a provocation from everything that happens. Expectancy is continually being reawakened, particularly now, when all of the normal parts of life have been stripped away, and all these questions are re-surfacing.

There is a whole thread that has been present in the Movement, and absent elsewhere, of “I don’t want to miss what is happening right now.” That is a bizarre thing to say. It makes sense because something good is happening right now, but I have to be present in order to catch it.

CLN: Father Carrón said the same thing in his letter to Corriere della Sera: why would we want to miss this? This is a kind of condensed reality we are living right now, and why would we want to pass up this opportunity?

 Are there any other aspects of the statement you would want to draw attention to?

Patrick: On a personal level, the process of creating the statement was shocking for me. . . . We met over a weekend-long set of Zoom calls—we normally do that in New York—and in the past, I would find myself having to fight against my own cynicism when people would say things that sound like CL moralisms. Instead, this time, I did not have to tell myself to stop to being cynical because everyone is living this thing so seriously, as compared to what we are seeing around us: the vacillations of left-right rage or the “we will get through this together” mentality, a hope that does not rest on anything. Instead, on the calls, everyone was paying so much attention to reality and the circumstances they are living--and they are seeing things I am not even seeing. It was a huge provocation for me to take the reality I am living right now more seriously. 

CLN: Through the statement you are encouraging us to do the same thing, to pay more attention to what we are living now.

Regarding the statement for the CL Communities, I was struck by the fact that you were willing to open the question of how the Encounter will happen next year to everyone.

Viewing the Baldwin Exhibit

Patrick: The Encounter takes the whole year to put together. So even though we’re looking at February 2021, we had to start deciding a couple months ago whether it was reasonable to try to do what we normally do. Between the fact that we have no idea if we can raise the necessary money to put on the Encounter during hard economic times like we are facing and the fact that we have no idea for sure if events of multiple-thousand people in New York City will be happening in 2021, we realized that we can’t plan on this. So, what are we going to do?

The impetus to approach it this way is an outgrowth of some things that happened a few years ago when we started asking people in their local CL communities to submit their ideas for events and exhibits at the Encounter. We said, we don’t know what is happening. Let’s ask people what is happening that should be highlighted at the Encounter. Take the event on homelessness last year, which none of us would have had any idea about. Alberto in Seattle had friends who ran this innovative project for homeless people there. He proposed that event. Seeing how much more fruitful it is when the Encounter becomes something that is coming out of the life of the people in the Movement in the US, it seemed like a natural choice to say: we do not have the greatest ideas for how to do this thing. Maybe there is some innovative idea that somebody else will have. 

CLN: At first when I read this, I was thinking, please don’t let it be a bunch of Zoom webinars. But now I can see a lot of possibilities. There could be combination of events: some online national webinars, some local events, maybe local communities taking responsibility--an organic growth.

Patrick: A few years ago, I designed the education exhibit, and I was thinking very much in a box: you can print on this size panel, and it will hang there. And that is all we had. Last year when they did the Baldwin exhibit, Rosie, the designer, did something outside the box—she did not even have a box! And it had never occurred to me that something could be done like that, even though I have been to museums and seen exhibits that are not just panels on a wall. I hope that there are ideas like that that are not occurring to the people who tend to think conventionally, like me, of how we can do an exhibit that is not just a Zoom webinar. This quarantine experience would have been a lot harder without Zoom, but I think we’re all getting a little tired of it at this point. I am ready to be done with Zoom forever. 

CLN: Thank you--I am really looking forward to seeing what emerges.

Assembling the Baldwin Exhibit


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