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Monday, July 06, 2015

Celebrate Athena's weaving of our cities' souls

Pythia Peay provides an excerpt from "Reflections on the Soul of Washington, DC: An Interview With Thomas Moore" on Huffington Post for the U.S. celebration of Independence Day. This excerpt is from her new book, America on the Couch: Psychological Perspectives on American Politics and Culture published by Lantern Books. She writes that Moore "reveals the deeper symbolism contained within our American myths and symbols of freedom and independence, especially as they are reflected in the monuments and memorials of the nation's capital — a place Moore describes as 'sacred.'"

When Peay admits "sometimes the city feels more like a tourist destination than one of our nation's sacred treasures," Moore responds:
"I wouldn't call those visitors 'tourists.' They're clearly pilgrims. People are not going to D.C. as tourists the way they would visit another city. [But] what these tourists are doing as they tour the monuments and the city is an aspect of civil religion: it's honest to goodness deep, deep, soul religion. That's different even from the spiritual dimension of religion." 
 Peay then asks, "So how would this apply to Washington, D.C., and what would a "soul" and a "spirit" approach to the nation's capital feel like?" Moore answers:
"The spirit part is to make everything function well, and to be efficient. . . With spirit, there's a tendency to be educational and to explain everything, rather than letting people have the simple experience of the images and the memories they evoke.

A soul approach would be to visit an old building, for example, and go into a room where an old document was signed, without having to listen to someone give a lecture about it... So when someone is standing in front of a monument, or is in some historic room or building, they need to allow their imagination time and quiet." 
Peay continues, "D.C. is so rich with statues and images carved into its buildings. Is there a particular figure that to you embodies something of the soul of the city?" Moore replies:
 "The art of weaving things together is a very traditional image of soul. The Goddess Athena, who was the patroness of Athens, and who is the patroness of all cities, was a weaver: I see Athena in all of the buildings, and particularly in the Statue of Freedom atop the Capitol. Being able to weave together cultures and personalities and all sorts of peoples and religions – that is the work of Athena, and that is the work of the city and of the government. So she is the patroness of the soul of the city: not the running of it, but the weaving."

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