When I reflect on my journeys throughout the world, which have gone on for so long now, it sometimes strikes me that the most troubling problems were not so much borders and front lines, or the exertion and the danger, as the constantly recurring uncertainty about the nature and course of my encounters with Others, with the other people I came across somewhere along the way. After all, I knew that a great deal, and at times everything, was at stake. Each of these encounters was an unknown: What would it be like? How would it unfold? What would it lead to?

… That same choice, which a group of our ancestors faced thousands of years ago, faces us today as well, with undiminished intensity – a choice as fundamental and categorical as it was back then. How should we act towards Others?

… It might end up in a duel, a conflict, or a war. Every archive contains evidence of such events, which are marked by countless battlefields and ruins scattered around the world. All this is proof of man’s failure – that he did not know how orm did not want , to reach an understanding with Others.

… Fortunately, there is evidence of a different human experience scattered abundantly across our planet. These are the proofs of cooperation – the remains of marketplaces, the remains of ports, of places where there are agoras and sanctuaries, where the seats of old universities and academies were visible, or where remain vestiges of such trade routes as the Silk Road, the Amber Route, or the Trans-Saharan caravan route. All of these places where people met to exchange thoughts, ideas, and merchandise, and where they traded and did business, concluded covenants and alliances, and discovered shared goals and values. “The Other” stopped being a synonym of foreignness and hostility, danger and moral evil. People discovered within themselves a fragment of the Other, and they believed in this and lived confidently.

From a lecture, Encountering the Other, given at the Jagiellonian University, Cracow, July 5th, 2005.

Advertisements