O ne hundred and eighty-one years ago this summer season, in his inaugural Editorial Introduction to The Dial, Ralph Waldo Emerson outlined the publication's aims (which have inspired ours) “to draw thoughts and feelings which, being alive, can impart life.” It was a radical goal for a magazine born in a mercurial decade: engaging readers in a collective act of recovery. The etymology of the word recovery suggests a renewal of life, as Emerson likely meant, both metaphorically and physically. On the surface, the word evokes an orientation toward the past, coming as it does from the Medieval Latin recuperare, meaning “to regain.” Yet foresight and imagination are equally inherent in recovery; what is re-gained is rarely identical with what was had.
More than a century and a half later, and a year and a half since we conceived of our own Dial project, our world is entering into a period of recovery: the beginning of the end of a once-in-a-century pandemic. In the United States, forty-four percent of the country has been vaccinated. Business are reopening, faces are being unmasked, and there is talk of resuming travel as the world emerges from muffled retreat.
This is not to downplay the very real incompleteness of our recovery. We remain confronted with global economic disruption, exacerbated racial and geographic disparities in well-being and wealth, concern that herd immunity will remain out of reach, the threat of a more deadly COVID variant, ongoing political polarization, atomization of individuals and communities, and trauma brought on by death, dying, and denial of the same.
But recovery begins, unsurprisingly, with beginning. And all beginnings entail juxtaposition, being at once a commencement and culmination. The word recovery is itself a paradox, just as delight or awful. Deconstructed, recovery (re-gaining) literally suggests its opposite—a re-covering, or concealment—whereas figuratively we understand recovery as exposing, rescuing, even redeeming.
With this in mind, we're excited to bring you Issue 2 of Symposeum: a curated anthology of more than twenty-five original works addressing the theme of recovery. We chose this motif not only because it is timely, but also because it is timeless—which is also how we think about hope. Collected here are stories, essays, photographs, poems, music and more, all generated by reflections on the inevitable tension of recovery: the push-and-pull between regaining and reimagining. Grounded in knowledge gleaned from experience, this is our most personal issue yet.
In Hope Is, Lena Mazel colorfully describes adopting two parakeets and nursing them back to health. In The Transformative Potential of Trauma Recovery, social worker Michael Zuch explains through first-hand experience and case studies the sometimes contentious relationship between trauma and recovery in psychotherapy. In Lost and Found and A Purple Heart Buried on the Rhine , authors Leah Field and Mara Truslow narrate physically recovered memories of grandparents who endured love lost in a concentration camp and friends lost in battlefields. In No Justice, No Peace?, an interview with academics from Vanderbilt and the University of California at Hastings engages with the long history of police reform and lessons for today.
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 2 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.