While the days ahead are rife with uncertainty, Chautauqua will convene in 2021 to wrestle with the critical issues of our time, considering ways in which we as individuals, families and communities have been tested and have responded, and how we move forward.
Our theme weeks for the 2021 Season will evolve in response to the world around us; as our lives change, so too will we adapt our work in order to present the explorations that are most needed at whatever moment in time we find ourselves during the summer of 2021.
Read more and stay updated on how we’re approaching our planning for the 2021 Summer Assembly
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2021 Season: June 26–August 29
Week One: June 26–July 3, 2021
China and the World: Collaboration, Competition, Confrontation?
- Under President Xi Jinping’s rule, the world’s most populous country has been working toward fulfilling the “China Dream” of global leadership, positioning itself inside a “superpower marathon” with the United States. Now, amid a trade war, the arrival of COVID-19 has been met with harsh rhetoric from both sides, further straining U.S.-China relations.
- In this week of geopolitics, economics and cultural exploration, we consider China’s role in the world after COVID-19 and whether it emerges stronger or weaker politically and economically. How is it leveraging the pandemic in its recovery and in its efforts to overtake the U.S. as the global leader in technology, and how is the U.S. responding? Is China an unstoppable force or has it already peaked?
Interfaith Lecture Theme: 21st Century Religion in China: Collaboration, Competition, Confrontation?
China through the ages has given birth to religious expressions uniquely its own, while also absorbing and embracing multiple religious traditions and variations that have migrated from the Asian subcontinent and the West. In this week focusing on China, we look for its contemporary expressions of the religious impulse, or the suppression thereof.
Week Two: July 3–10, 2021
New Frontiers: Exploring Today’s Unknowns
- There is so much left to explore and discover — and the more humans explore, the more we learn how much remains undiscovered. We consider these new frontiers in science, health, technology, the environment, and look to where new insights are being gained every day.
- In this week, we welcome the new explorers, the next generation of innovators, to learn what work they’re doing on the cutting edge of these fields, exploring the extraordinary and making the unknown, known.
Interfaith Lecture Theme: New Frontiers: Exploring the Future of Religion in America
Long regarded as one of the most religious countries in the world, America is showing signs of losing that distinction, as successive generations begin to claim more spirituality and less religiosity, and with greater frequency self-identifying as neither, indeed as “none of the above.” In this week we look toward what a changing religious landscape in America would look and act like.
Week Three: July 10–17, 2021
Trust, Society and Democracy
- While recent work from the Pew Research Center had previously indicated our growing distrust in social institutions and of each other in making democratic decisions, the past year has brought this crisis of trust to a critical inflection point.
- How can trust be restored, and how do we maintain a healthy level of skepticism that doesn’t devolve into something worse? The internet and social media have clearly accelerated and inflamed this troubling trend — what role can they play in reversing it?
- What do we do with institutions that society has declared broken, and what must institutions do to rebuild trust with those they serve? Perhaps most importantly, how can we work to regain trust with one another?
Interfaith Lecture Theme: The Ethical Foundations of a Fully Functioning Society
Socrates and his student Plato entered the discourse on ethics by way of a question that became central in Greek thought and is still relevant today: What is the relation between virtue, excellence of character, and personal and societal happiness? For the flourishing of a society, the Greek philosophers believed in reverence and justice, as well as the objectivity of goodness, as the links for knowing what is good and doing it. In this week we will discern the ethical foundations of a fully functioning society.
Week Four: July 17–24, 2021
Many Americas: Navigating Our Divides
- We are many Americas. We are many geographies, many economies, many cultures, many beliefs. We are a nation of differences and divides, and in a summer following a presidential election and a devastating pandemic that has thrown those divides into stark relief, we look to better understand those many Americas, the barriers—real or perceived—that keep us apart, and together consider how we navigate our differences in charting a future for our nation.
Interfaith Lecture Theme: The Evolving Religious Narrative of America
The national narrative that we extoll is that America was founded on ethical principles born out of religious freedom and fervor, with the moral imperative of justice for all – but how accurate is this narrative? How has this self-image been lived out historically? Does it accommodate our multifaith evolution, and the myriad expressions of world faith traditions that we now comprise? What does this narrative not reveal? In this week we explore the evolving American religious narrative and identity.
Week Five: July 24–31, 2021
The Authentic Comedic Voice: A Week in Partnership with the National Comedy Center
- The art of comedy is deeply personal, requiring artists and creators to tap into their own experience to hone a unique, resonant and authentic voice.
- In this week, we examine how comedians working in an array of genres, media and styles have found their voices, developed their voices and mobilized their voices to communicate with audiences in impactful — and entertaining — ways.
Interfaith Lecture Theme: The Authentic Comedic Voice: Truth Born of Struggle
What we expect from the Art of Comedy is something silly, foolish, witty, or an unexpected twist or deviation from expected reality. It has been posited, however, that authentic comedic articulation, while producing laughter and hilarity, frequently arises out of struggle, out of pathos and the need to speak truth. “We laugh because it’s funny; we laugh – or cry – because it’s true.” In this week we invite the voices of the healers who make us laugh.
Week Six: July 31–August 7, 2021
Building a Culture of Empathy
- Creating understanding and compassion, empathy is critical in navigating our world and building community. Empathy might have a reputation associated with emotionality or sentimentality, but science indicates that it’s wired into our very being, with practical applications in lives. What does empathy look like in action, from healing systemic divides creating by inequity to implementing effective public policy and leading through times of crisis?
- Instilling and normalizing empathy has the potential to help us connect across our most polarizing differences and survive our most tragic times, so how can we work together to build a lasting culture of empathy?
Interfaith Lecture Theme: Building a Culture of Empathy
In recent years, a trait frequently cited as essential to the flourishing of humankind is empathy, an impulse manifested in all the world’s religions. Connected with compassion and altruism, it arises out of a willingness to care, to endeavor to understand, and to place oneself within the human experiences of others. In this week we seek voices who are living this capacity, and inspiring and motivating it in others.
Week Seven: August 7–14, 2021
The State of the Economy: Where Do We Go From Here?
- What drives the rebuilding of the economy in the wake of COVID-19? In the summer of 2021 — a year and a half after the pandemic plunged the U.S. into recession — we examine the state of “recovery” from Main Street to Wall Street; what has been lost and what has thrived; and what the crisis has laid bare in terms of necessary investments and structural reforms. How do we make our economy more resilient?
- During this week we consider what building a new economy can and should look like, beyond high employment and growing businesses. Do we want an economy that looks like the one we had on January 1, 2020, or one that is more just in the distribution of wealth? What will we have learned during the months following the re-opening of the economy, and what are we learning from the approaches of other nations? What — and who — have we deemed essential in this new and evolving economy?
Interfaith Lecture Theme: Creating an Economy that Works for All
A society failing to uphold justice for all is not a just society. A just society supports health care, work opportunity and wage justice, and bridges the divides that create life-diminishing inequalities in education and access to essential services. It bridges wealth gaps and promotes the opportunity to thrive for all. How do religion and ethical humanism make demands upon economic policy, and what difference does this make?
Week Eight: August 14–21, 2021
The Human Brain: Our Greatest Mystery
- Neurophysiologist and Nobel Laureate David Hubel once asked, “Can the brain understand the brain? Can it understand the mind? Is it a giant computer … or something more?”
- In this week, we explore the folds and recesses of this distinctly human mystery, bringing together neuroscientists and psychologists to chart a path through the enigma of our consciousness, through the impacts of trauma and stress on our health, through the gray matter and the white matter, neurons and synapses, the wiring that embodies our cognition, that sparks our selves.
Interfaith Lecture Theme: The Human Soul: Our Ineffable Mystery
Most people sense and recognize another dimension beyond the physical plane of our existence and call the personal inner reality that this dimension connotes the human “soul,” known also as the “Spirit” or “Life Force.” Recognition of this inner reality is the basis of most religions but remains difficult to define or explain. In this week we will hear various interpretations of this ineffable human experience.
Week Nine: August 21–29, 2021
- What drives people to keep going when forces outside their control work against them? And what does that tell us about our humanity and hope for the future? We close our 2021 season looking at the resilience that emerged during a tumultuous 2020. From a global pandemic to the quest for racial equality, we reflect on a revealing, historic period by lifting up the stories and the lessons of those who refused to give up, give in or go away.
Interfaith Lecture Theme: Resilience
What drives people to keep going over time, when forces outside their control work against them, and what does that tell us about our humanity and hope for the future? We close our 2021 season looking at examples of resilience about which we have been reminded during a tumultuous 2020. From the experience of a global pandemic to the quest for racial equality and political and ethical leadership, as well as the residual trauma of uncountable historical tragedies and inhumanities, we look for the wisdom to help us all to refuse to give up, give in, or go away.