Sometimes, it can feel as if the problems our society faces grow more complex at the same rate that our discourse dissolves.
It was therefore not only a treat but a salve to have the Words, Ideas and Thinkers Festival unfold over a long weekend in the heart of the Berkshires. Affectionately referred to as the “WIT,” its overarching thesis was brief in title but deep in substance: “Reimagining America.”
Over four days in Lenox, a medley of experts from varied fields and diverse backgrounds modeled how to think publicly in real time about some of the headiest and heaviest issues we face. Climate change and geopolitical conflict. The crossroads of religion and science. Art and identity. History and law. Assessing our lenses on the past and our vision of the future.
It’s worth reflecting on the driving ethos of this event and the Authors Guild, a community of writers who worked hard to build this festival from scratch and offer it for free. These dense topics and tough questions are worth diving into not in spite of their complexity but because of it — and the stickiest issues are those for which even our greatest minds have no simple answers. As the WIT’s format demonstrates, we must be able to simultaneously marshal the facts and diversify the perspectives. The rich conversation generated therein is essential not just for individuals who crave knowledge but for a nation that must be able to confront change and chaos with reason and compassion.
As those conversations took place over the weekend, attendees not only grew a bit more worldly but glimpsed a greater truth. Whether it’s pairing up an admiral with an acclaimed author, a veteran journalist with a renowned scholar, an activist with an artist, we all can learn from each other. Our society is in desperate need of remodeling how we think in public, how we grapple with complicated issues and how we engage each other while doing so. That mission can be nourished by the synthesis of words, ideas and thinkers if they’re given an encouraging arena.
The Berkshire Eagle was proud to partner with the Authors Guild and several community stakeholders in the the effort to provide that arena right here in our Berkshire backyard. We’re also glad to hear that the Authors Guild is already planning for next year’s WIT Festival. We hope it becomes a bright annual thread in our region’s renowned cultural tapestry.