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Borderland and the Pragmatics of Ethos. Lecture by Krzysztof Czyżewski

– Wherever cultures enter into dialogue, a durable cultural paradigm is founded on the borderland between the different worlds. It's essence is expressed as "an event of merging". In consequence, the host - Man of the Borderland - is no longer able to be himself without the Other and becomes a co-host, while the  community expresses itself through intercommunication, Krzysztof Czyżewski noted during a lecture at the headquarters of the Professor Bronisław Geremek Centre Foundation. 

On May 15 2012 a new series of open lectures titled "Man of the Borderland" was launched at the Professor Bronisław Geremek Centre Foundation. Krzysztof Czyżewski  - founder and director of the "Borderland - Arts, Cultures, Nations" Centre in Sejny, essayist, organizer of intercultural activities and editor of "Krasnogruda" -  was the featured guest at the first meeting. The lecture was an attempt to outline the ethos of "the man of the borderland" - embodying a peculiar attitude and manner of thought, action and perception of the world,  shaped by the specific conditions of a community historically rooted in  a multicultural society.

The basic,  constitutive element  shaping the attitude of the  man of the borderland is his openness to others and willingness to take  the initiative  and make the disinterested gesture of recognizing the rights of the other party. The courage "to leave your own bank" is the starting point for establishing  a community that might be burdened by  past  conflict. The ability to accept the viewpoint of the other party  - a kind of gift,that generates "a field of reciprocity" -  can be fraught with risk, since it might encounter silence or accusations   of betrayal of one's own orthodoxy.

Despite that risk, or rather contrary to it, the formula of ethos seeks  to imbue  the daily customs  and forms of spiritual life with values that constitute it: tolerance, openness to dialogue, ability to rise above divisions,  civic and neighbourhood patriotism, universalism, freedom and responsibility, self-criticism, openness to the world and the art of remembrance. Such a perspective of daily  life makes the  borderland an area where a certain attitude is upheld; it is not a utopian project, but one that is geared to action, a strictly pragmatic way of coexistence. Simply put, the ethos makes life easier in the borderland, as it facilitates proper and sensible solutions in specific situations.  

The ethos of the borderland constitutes a constant reference and inspiration for successive generations of people crossing borders and building bridges, wherever they live along the border, people who feel only - or perhaps even - co-hosts.


Jacek Głażewski