T he theme for this issue was chosen nearly half a year ago, before the delta variant, the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, and other unpredictable events. We are left searching now even more than we were then: for the right thing to say about what’s taken place in the past six months, the right thing to do in response, and the right way to use these pages as a space for reflecting rationally yet optimistically about it all. Of course, our search is just as much a reaction to the world around us as it is an earthling expression of deeper, constant yearnings. More time. New plans. Beauty in brokenness. Balance in chaos. Community in social distancing.
This issue’s cover art, “Lemonade” by Lucy Villeneuve, evokes a sense of self-discovery in the act of searching. Her shapes, lines and colors work in tandem with one another to move forward, her canvas capturing their quiet dance of ease and joy.
As the zeitgeist of our own moment in history becomes increasingly characterized by cynicism or catastrophe or both, there is an undeniable sense of urgency in post-pandemic transitioning where patience formerly prevailed. We’re back to errands, even running them. We’re back to traffic in the rush to work. We’re back to scheduled leave and busy airports and sending invitations and declining them because of calendar conflicts.
A collective challenge is thus finding true connection amidst so much connectivity.
This issue, like all issues of Symposeum, is a product of connecting people, ideas, and stories through collaboration. In plays, poetry, prose, and photography, from fictional worlds to Walden Pond, we engage the topic of searching because it represents the first step in our collective response to the dire challenges of our day. When faced with a problem, even countless problems, we go searching for answers. We explore this theme both literally and abstractly.
In Home Is Where You Find It, Daniel Bennett meditates on reclaiming our “birthright of belonging...in estranged terrain at last with an open heart.” Ahmed Hmeedat, a Palestinian artist, utilizes a limited color palette in an anonymous portrait series to show that “despite one’s circumstances or lack of materials, the impulse to create always seems to shine through." In a captivating essay on the next frontier, Star Tours, Lauren Spohn considers what space tourism teaches about the sublime—“the scarcest and most plentiful resource on earth.” South African animal tracker and storyteller Boyd Varty invites us into the wild to show us how finding meaning in life “takes the same courage that it takes to follow a lion in thick terrain.”
This issue also includes works on the subversive nature of cryptocurrency; the conflict-riddled relationship of information and truth; the comedy of paparazzi; dark matter; the Taoist art of wu wei; missing Dutch paintings; lessons from preschoolers; archaeological discovery; loss; immigration; identity.
Four issues in and we are also still publishing several “firsts,” including our first play, our first curated museum exhibition, and our first high school student. Even so, a lot has stayed the same. As always, Symposeum aims to impart our conviction that human goodness and ingenuity are most keen where they are most threatened. Despite the size of the threats, it is our hope that we will continue to wrestle, interrogate, seek, inspirit, cultivate, listen, build, and try.
The editorial team is grateful for our contributors who believed in this project enough to produce something for it. We’re also indebted to countless others who freely lent their time, talent, and advice to the process of building what will be a cultural touchstone. As The Dial community grows, it is a joy to labor alongside so many thoughtful optimists.
Symposeum is a publication of The Dial project: a twenty-first century creative, collaborative community dedicated to elevating rational optimism in public discourse. It draws on the commitment of our nineteenth-century predecessor to exploring works of “the Necessary, the Plain, the True, and the Human.”
Just like an authentic symposium, our quarterly issues examine single topics through a variety of perspectives. We trust you'll enjoy how each piece uniquely connects to this issue's theme as much as we enjoyed the unique challenge of putting Issue 3 together. Of course, none of this would be possible without our contributors' talent and freely lent time, the dedication of our leadership team, or our readers' support. Thank you.
Yours in hope and gratitude,