The theme was "Mais qu'est-ce que tu crois?", and I was quite intrigued at what might be presented, so once I was comfortably full of salad, chicken, curry sauce and bread I climbed the stairs to the auditorium and settled myself down. I won't give you a blow by blow account, but there were fourteen speakers - in French, "les speakers" - who each had about 18 minutes on subjects like "Why you should only believe what science tells you, including the multiverse", "An introduction to meditation" (we were told to remove our shoes and feel the energy of mother earth entering through our feet - an effect diminished when you're on the first floor of the cité du vin), "Animal welfare law", "How our musical tastes change", "Fasting", "Intuition" and "How I stopped believing in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy" - this one opened the show and was delivered with admirable aplomb by a remarkable ten-year-old girl.
The speakers had been working on their talks for six months, aided by coaches and they all did really well, though some with more fluency than others. One guy, talking about being an environmentally sensitive smallholder, was a real barnstormer, but then he's a YouTuber and has an extraordinarily wonderful speaking gift.
It shows you the power and attraction of the simple spoken word. Many of the talks had no visual aids and yet almost every seat in the 250 seat auditorium was filled and 750 people actually applied for tickets.
It also shows how easily we can put together a huge variety of approaches to a broad theme, like "But what do you believe?" without worrying too much about presenting an overall coherence of approach, without needing to hold together any over-arching world view. Some of the talks could have clashed, but now Such clashes have become impossible because we no longer seek a coherent vision of reality.
Well, one kind of talk would have clashed, I think. Any talk that was in any way theist. The meditation talk was "spiritual" and the intuition talk was going in that direction, too. But even the talk on fasting managed to mention Aristotle, Socrates and Pythagoras as being committed fasters, but left out Judaism, Christianity and Islam. I mean, how can you talk about fasting in France in 2017 and not talk about Ramadan? Easy-peasy. Watch me do it.
Despite technical issues with the coffee machine, the interval snacks were delicious as were the "cocktail" snacks served at the end of the afternoon. I needed some coffee half-way through to keep me from the land of nod. I chatted with a Chinese woman who thought I was French, until a waiter came by with something, I said "Merci" and he said "You're welcome." "You see", I told her, "one word is all it takes and everyone knows I'm British."