I found Stillpoint Spaces in October of 2016, on the world’s smallest inhabited island, Isola Tiberina, in the center of Rome. I am not a religious person but from the minute I tiptoed through the gilded sanctuary of the Basilica of Saint Bartholomew, and into the white-washed stone room adjacent, the experience was infused with what I’ll describe as transcendent magic. The weekend was filled with reflection, conversation, lectures and experience that brought to life the transition from antiquity to early Christianity, in self-critically secular terms. The physical manifestation of this history—and the budding notion of subjectivity that grew from that moment—were embodied in the archaeological sites that we visited, beneath the streets of Rome. But this brief description doesn’t do justice to an experience that was beyond words, an experience that changed my life.
That scorched weekend in October, looking down at the Tiber river gushing in the sunlight, I was filled with a renewed sense of hope for this world. I was filled with hope for the possibility for equity, justice, and peace, for the potentials embedded in the simple acts of reflection and study—even outside of the academy, where I have spent my adult life. But the month after, Donald Trump was elected the forty-fifth president of the United States, the country I call home. Even now, this authoritarian interruption feels clichéd. But it’s true that since then (and, I recognize, before) we’ve entered a period of uncertainty and constant, volatile change, worldwide. It seems, the rug has been pulled out from under us, Americans and citizens of other nations alike. What lies below—suddenly revealed—is a chasm that is impossibly deep, filled with frightening creatures whose tentacles, and reach, seem impossibly long. In the clunky metaphor to which I’m now committed, the chasm, and the creatures, were always already there, both outside and within us; we just were busy pretending otherwise.
Perhaps this metaphor suggests that this is a particularly ripe moment in human history for a project like Stillpoint Spaces, rooted in certain insights of a broadly-defined psychoanalysis—one without dogmatism, without strict adherence to a particular ideological line. Psychoanalysis, after all, is a discipline famous for confronting what’s ‘beneath the rug’, ideally, without fear, judgement, or blame. It’s a discipline that suggests we can put the past—even a traumatic past—to rest and move forward, into the future, with less suffering. Which brings me, more directly, to the purpose of this letter: to explore the importance of this moment for Stillpoint Spaces, and the ways we are trying, each day, to greet today’s world situation with depth, and humanity.
Stillpoint Spaces is in a state of becoming. It is in a state of transition from hopes and dreams, to reality, with all the latter’s richness and complexity. But still, it’s a project that, fundamentally, lies beyond language. And yet, each of us on the Stillpoint Spaces team is working hard to bring clarity, shape, and depth to this project, this idea, this hope for humanity, this indescribable something. Because within Stillpoint, there is a spark that has moved each of us deeply, whether on Isola Tiberina, online, or in one of the great cities of the world, where our Spaces are located. If I can venture to speak for my colleagues and mentors, I’ll say: it’s not always easy. But bringing this spark into reality is something we’ve been moved to do from deep within ourselves.
One of the specific steps we’ve taken recently, to bring our diverse dreams into closer contact with reality, is to redesign the Stillpoint Spaces websites. The famed fashion photographer Bill Cunningham said of style: “The wider world perceives fashion as frivolity that should be done away with. The point is that fashion is the armour to survive the reality of everyday life.” I’d argue that a similar line can be taken in relation to this other, new, virtual kind of membrane between the inner and outer worlds—yes, in relation to websites. On first glance, a change like Stillpoint Spaces’ redesigned, streamlined website (built, I must add, by a team of brilliant digital developers and designers) may appear “as frivolity”. And there’s some truth to that; websites are fun, and ours is good-looking. But with reflection, the possibility emerges that even a website, if thoughtfully made and ‘worn’, can act as our armour, can help all of us in the broader Stillpoint Spaces community to survive the reality of everyday life today.
When you visit the redesigned site, you’ll experience its ease of use, and see the greater unification across our Spaces in Paris, London, Berlin, and Zürich. This represents the way that our team members are joining forces, more than ever, to bring our skills and networks together, to continue creating oases for reflection, conversation and study. You’ll also notice an even greater emphasis on our incredible community members: you.
One of the central inspirations for Stillpoint Spaces is the power of bringing diverse groups of thoughtful people together in shared exchange and meaningful dialogue. The result we envision, and work hard to create every day, are new kinds of Spaces where, together, we can create innovative ways of knowing, and being, for our shared future on earth. In this spirit, during the coming months we’ll explore and share even more ways for you to join the conversation, and the community.
This is only the beginning.