“Desire isn’t appeased by its object…only irritated into something more than desire that can join with the stars to inform the chaotic heavens with sense.”
-Samuel Delany, Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand
What does it look like to truly come to encounter with an otherworldly figure- someone whose world and orientation may be dis-orientingly different from yours?
Coming fully to encounter involves a certain vulnerability, a willingness to engage with something or someone that might change your worldview. A willingness to move beyond certainty, to be shifted out of your usual subjectivity. Being pulled by curiosity, or desire, or the strange fear that exists at their intersection into a willingness to step out of your comfortable positionality.
At its core, encounter involves a willingness to step, for a moment, into another’s world. To step out of our familiar understanding of our self, to be willing and brave enough to see the world through an “alien’s” eyes. To live in a world of entanglement instead of stable subjectivity. Encounter and connection can lead to forms of being and living together outside of normative ways of relating.
Encounter is based on the idea that our bodies and selves are not bounded and are not, perhaps, even human, but are instead porous. We are not the stable and separate selves that we may imagine ourselves to be.
World-building and world destruction happen first and foremost in the mind, and as a result of encounters and of being with others. Worlds are ontological projects, built around our conceptions of being, around who counts (as human) and who doesn’t. When you step into another’s world and allow your conception of the self to change, your world changes.
Fully integrating encounter means we change how we see ourselves, not just others.
Delany, Samuel R. Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand. Bantam: New York, 1984.