I met an old friend this week named Paul McKenna. Paul was there when Encounter was first being born and he even helped nurture the fledgling organization by introducing our founder, JW Windland, to people and organizations that helped Encounter get known. As Paul and I were catching up, he shared a quote with me and while I’m not often into quotes too much, this one seemed to reach across the table and grab me. Here it is:

“Each friend represents a world in us,

a world not born until they arrive,

and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”

Anaïs Nin

I sat there staring at it because the quote seemed to capture what meeting JW has meant to me in a way nothing else has. Meeting him genuinely changed my life. As the quote puts so well, he opened up a world inside me, this love of religions, that I didn’t know was there. And it really was only by meeting him that this world I now live in was born.

JW Windland at the last Discovery Week he ever ran in 2012. He died two years later.

The timing of my conversation with Paul was extra poignant because we just finished the 2023 Discovery Week (some images are here). Windland was the genius who conceived of the Discovery Week and every year I can only marvel first at the brilliance of what he created and, second, at my unbelievable luck that I get to run it.

But the quote’s added relevance was that it also captures some of the heart of what Discovery Week itself is about. The week is about encounter, about meeting new people, creating new acquaintances and finding new friends which, as Nin writes, can open up new worlds to us, both out there and in ourselves.

Every year is different and its own adventure and that was true this year as well. We arrived at the Hindu temple on Monday morning to find a festival was going on. The temple was bursting with sound as horns and bells went on and the priests conducted elaborate rituals in front of us. It was an unplanned immersion in Hinduism as celebration.

We met the Wiccans in a park at night for the first time in many years. We felt the grass under our feet as we observed ritual under the skies as humans did for tens or even hundreds of thousands of years before any temple was ever built.

We met Sanha, our Zen master, who we rarely see in the summer as she tends to be away. She conveyed such warmth in our time with her. She embodies the quiet of Zen and its compassionate wisdom. You can’t honestly write about Sanha. You have to experience her presence. If I lived in Toronto, I would seriously consider attending her temple regularly. I feel like she could introduce me to new worlds.

A particular surprise for me this year was that the Shabbat service at the synagogue seemed to resonate more deeply with the group than any I can recall. I cannot even identify why. The music was so joyful (as it always is), the sermon was good as always…but our group seemed buzzing afterwards. My daughter, who joined us this year (a personal delight), said she thought she could see herself as part of that community.

And we had a new home this year. We lost our base at the University of Toronto but this was a blessing in disguise. We found new friends at St. Andrew’s United on Bloor. Heavens, I am still a bit speechless at the way they treated us. They served us. It was Christian service at its absolute best. We were touched and humbled at the million little things that they took care of before we could ask. This feels like a relationship budding where you will grow from the example shown by others.

Finally, there were the attendees. Many from Canada, perhaps a third from the USA, two from Scotland and one from Zambia. We laughed, shared book recommendations, and many have emailed me since the week ended. Several are from Guelph, the town where I live. A few have reached out about having me speak to their groups in the next year. I am sure I will see several of these folks again and others online. I hope some of them will stay in touch with each other too. In past years, friendships have been born of the Discovery Week. Honestly, I’m already looking forward to the 2024 Discovery Week. I wonder who I will meet then?

And how about you? What or who might await you in the next twelve months? Will there be new people or experiences that open something for you? I hope there will be and that you will find new worlds in the process. It might help, as you venture forth, to keep this quote in mind:

“Each friend represents a world in us,

a world not born until they arrive,

and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”

Anaïs Nin


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    1. Pam WongPam Wong August 3, 2023 at 7:07 pm - Reply

      Discovery Week was fantastic! You have a gift of magically sharing the wonder of so many religions. We will definitely see you again! Thank you.

      • Brian Carwana August 6, 2023 at 2:24 pm - Reply

        I was so glad you both came Pam! It was a pleasure to run that wonderful week.

    2. Earl Smith August 4, 2023 at 2:02 am - Reply

      A very beautiful saying and so true.
      It’s a beginning of a brotherhood or sisterhood with one another

    3. Barnett Nancy August 4, 2023 at 3:51 am - Reply

      I met JW here in florida in 2013 and why i decided to attend the following July. He told me a story about the nativity within us that really touched me. This Brings it back. Youve done such an inspiring job at carrying his mantle yet making it your own. Look forward to newsletter.

      • Brian Carwana August 6, 2023 at 2:24 pm - Reply

        Thanks for your kind words Nancy! And yes, he was a special guy.

    4. Doug Bolger August 4, 2023 at 12:55 pm - Reply

      Thanks for sharing that quote and the encounter with Paul. I had the privilege of meeting him and having him present in our program at the Scarborough Mission Center. His work in interfaith dialogue was inspiring. Sincerely appreciated the members of our group this Encounter. Blessings to all.

      • Brian Carwana August 6, 2023 at 2:24 pm - Reply

        Paul has had a long career and commitment in this area for sure. Was pleased to have you come to the week again Doug. All the best!

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