Thursday, January 1, 2009

E Pluribus Unum

This is from a recent writing assignment. For what, I will not say, but I so enjoyed the process, that I decided to post it here as well. Happy New Year!

E Pluribus Unum, Out of many, one. This American motto chosen by Charles Thornson, has been in use since 1795. It is a phrase, seen passively on notes used for debts, both public and private, and it encapsulates the nature of American culture and society.

The idea of American democracy is based in convergence. E Pluribus Unum is an acknowledgment that, as a country, we are not all alike; an understanding that we do not come from a common race, ethnicity or religion. Thus, we seek to be unified by ideas, concepts, and values that are not predestined. E Pluribus Unum is a summons to seek out collective understanding via discourse, informal dialogue, and individual expression. In this democratic society, the pursuit of such a collective understanding is an exercise we rely upon to come together as a people.

Collective understanding is based in multiple perspectives and disciplines. Perspectives range from the intellectual to the social to the personal to the artistic. And in the conglomeration of these ideas, patterns emerge and are repeated until they are recognizable as indicators of culture.

Media and art represent two modes of distribution for ideas. Media, or Press as referred to in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, is designated to provide truth-based information to freethinking citizens for interpretation, discussion, and action. Media provides narrative, but media also offers opinion, and it is through public opinion that collective understanding is gauged. Thus, media can be a powerful instrument of influence.

If Media provides a narrative, then art offers perspective. Art conveys complex messages by appealing to our senses, be they visual, auditory, sensory, olfactory, or even taste.

To understand a democratic society that is E Pluribus Unum, one must be able to understand multiple perspectives. Because our democratic society seeks out equality, not just for people, but also for ideas, it is necessary to see those ideas from the originator’s point of view, both intellectually and emotionally. Art allows us to venture from that which is purely intellectual, to a hybrid of thought and emotion. Art is perspective, art is insight, art implies that which is unsaid and often offers vibrant opinions.

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