Cities of Light

I return with countless impressions from my recent visit to the US and have chosen two contrasting experiences to present here. The US is a vast country with a wonderful diversity of people. I love its wilderness, mountains and deserts, but this trip would see me walking from dawn to dusk in the urban landscapes of Washington DC and New York.

A Place of Change and Warmth

The Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. takes the form of a Greek Doric temple and contains a large seated sculpture of Abraham Lincoln. The memorial stands at the West end of the National Mall with the Capital Building three kilometers away to the East.

I walked to the Lincoln Memorial during a beautifully crisp early autumnal morning and was deeply moved by the experience. Sunlight pours through the east facing opening onto the monumental seated form of Abraham Lincoln. The statue is not of a man, but rather a reflection of the aspiration of a nation. The temple is a contemplative, powerful setting that encourages one to consider the self-sacrifice of others for a better world. On the north sandstone wall Lincoln's famous speech known as the Gettysburg Address is beautifully and deeply inscribed.

The photograph below is among a series I took that morning. I am drawn to this particular image as I like its cool respectful distance from the two figures. One of the stone-white Abraham Lincoln, and the other, a man who stands reading Lincoln's second inaugural address delivered on March 4, 1865. Words I found play a significant role in so many of the mounuments of Washingston D.C. and so I have copied Lincoln's inspired Gettysburg Address below the image that follows:

 

The Lincoln Memorial

The Gettysburg Address

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live.

It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain - that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom - and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln, November 19, 1863.

 

Spire and Light

The second photo is of a reflection of The Empire State Building at night. It is a different kind of monument completed in the great depression of the 1930's. The viewpoint is uncertain as the glimmering light of the skyscraper's upper torso shimmers in the glass windows of a distant office block. During the first year of its opening, The Empire State Building produced more revenue from those who visited its observatory, than through all the office space rented in its 86 floors. Perhaps this points to our need for understanding and perspective. Rather than a symbol of economic power, The Empire State Building has become a place we seek context, a place to stand atop and ponder on our condition...

 

Spire and Light

 

Mike de Sousa
November 2013

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