Happiness Can Only Come From Something Beautiful

On February 15-17 in the heart of Manhattan, New York, the 2019 edition of the New York Encounter will take place. We publish an overview of its upcoming highlights.
Joshua Stancil

Luigi Giussani, the founder of Communion and Liberation, once wrote, “When there is something beautiful within us, we desire to communicate it to others.” This fundamental human desire has always been a motivation behind the New York Encounter, a three-day cultural event held every year in midtown Manhattan, the crossroads of the world. This year’s edition, which begins February 15, will go deeper into this desire and examine the beautiful Something from which we start, the Something that urges us forward even in times as uncertain and confused as our own.

Cesare Pavese asked, “Has anyone ever promised us anything? Then why do we expect something?” The 2019 edition of the New York Encounter launches from Pavese’s acute observation that each of us – every human being, without exception – experiences an innate expectation of happiness. Not merely the desire for it, which would be surprising enough, since the desire for something implies the existence of the thing desired. But we experience an actual expectation of happiness, an expectation both rational and mysterious. An expectation worth exploring. The New York Encounter will take up this challenge of exploration with the help of noted cultural commentators such as David Brooks, Robert George, John Waters, and Austen Ivereigh.

This is not a weekend of dry, academic discussions, but rather a full immersion into life: words, images, music, friendship. “A Blossom in the Desert” will chronicle the heart’s stubborn expectation of happiness through witnesses from around the world. Included will be an astonishing documentary piece on APAC, a network of reform-minded prisons in Brazil that employs a method of promoting human dignity and restorative justice. Can a prison be successful without guards? The ten-minute selection from “Unguarded,” edited expressly for the New York Encounter, will suggest a tantalizing and counter-intuitive answer.

A performance of John Coltrane’s jazz will open the Encounter on a riff of soulful, searching notes. The jazz great’s lifelong search for the happiness his heart expected is discernible in his music, which will accompany us this weekend.

The human heart’s longing for newness has provoked an unending quest for new lands and new worlds. In the Manhattan Pavilion’s main auditorium, two esteemed astrophysicists will present “Beyond the Moon…to the Farthest Reaches,” which will explore this human need for novelty and tell us something about our presence in the world, our origins, and our destiny.

And this year the New York Encounter goes fully interactive with an exhibit that uses Walker Percy’s masterpiece Lost in the Cosmos: the Last Self-Help Book as a springboard for a fun, eye-opening, and possibly controversial leap into the greatest adventure of all: the journey to discover who we really are, and why we often feel so restless, unfulfilled, and lonely – yet still awake every day with a secret hope that something incredible will happen.

This is but a sampling of the truly kaleidoscopic array of exhibits, performances, and discussions that will fill the Manhattan Pavilion this weekend. The full program can be found here. We hope you will join us for a fascinating journey that starts, as it must, from Something present.