W e live in disorienting times. The pandemic has exacerbated deeper-rooted problems of systemic violence, inequity, and injustice. Our nation—truly, our world—stands on the cusp of unprecedented change. But history is rife with upheaval and rebirth; we weigh it for instruction and inspiration.
In 1840, a group of transcendentalists led by Margaret Fuller, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau launched The Dial, a journal dedicated to furnishing a “cheerful rational voice amidst the din of mourners and polemics.” From these visionaries—the self-styled “Symposeum”—we take our name. Symposeum is a publication of The Dial project: a twenty-first century creative, collaborative community dedicated to elevating cheerful rationality in public discourse. It draws on its predecessor’s commitment to exploring works of “the Necessary, the Plain, the True, and the Human.”
By Necessary, we mean works of critical inquiry.
By Plain, we mean works of novel insight into ordinary occurrences.
By True, we mean works of empirical investigation.
By Human, we mean works of intimate experience.
Like an authentic symposium, our quarterly issues will examine single topics through a variety of perspectives. The theme of Issue Zero is liminal space. A state of in-betweenness, liminal space captures the essence of the world today on both macro and micro scales. In the following pages, you’ll find a breadth and depth of related works—from essays to poems to art. In “Lizzie,” a father shares the recent loss of his daughter to the ongoing drug epidemic in the height of coronavirus. In “Leave No Trace,” a hiker recounts her two thousand mile chaplaincy on the Appalachian Trail. In “Arm in Arm,” a teacher reflects on restorative disciplinary models in a virtual learning setting. In “Making a Medium,” a leader at an early stage startup illustrates the future of information as displayed and shared on the internet. As editors, we’ve curated pieces for a broad audience. Accordingly, each piece has a voice of its own. We trust you’ll find a home in at least a few.
The editorial team is grateful for our Issue Zero 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 we wish will become a cultural touchstone. As The Dial community grows, it is a joy to labor alongside so many thoughtful optimists.
Symposeum aims to impart our conviction that human goodness and ingenuity are most keen where they are most threatened. It is an ambitious aim, but the present moment demands an ambitious response. This liminal season is ours: to register and wrestle, to interrogate and inspirit, to cultivate, to build, and to own.