– An Invitation to the American Age by Jeffrey F. Barken –
Of the many elegant passages in The Great Gatsby depicting the beauty, or corruption of nature—from the “ashen valley” where lurks Myrtle and her cuckold husband, to the wealthy estates of East Egg and the Deco majesty of Manhattan—one sequence stands out: “I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors’ eyes,” narrator, Nick Carraway reflects toward the end of the novel. “A fresh, green breast of the new world…. for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.”
I’ll certainly grant Fitzgerald his due praise for the beauty of these lines, but I can’t say I agree with their sentiment. Perhaps our nerve-racked forbears did endure confounding moods inspired by the daunting New World wilderness, but those frightened thoughts also bore the essence of adventure, bright second chances—a moment of empowerment filled with exhilarating uncertainties—that for many must have been not only desired, but inspiring. Moreover, to suggest this was the last time humanity stood on the precipice of such unbridled potential denies the reality that the frontier lives on in us all, and revives with each generation.
True, we have in large measure absorbed the continent, devoured resources, built fabled cities and generally cordoned off our realm, but the cultural memory of these projects and processes inaugurated by native peoples, first explorers, later immigrants and yes, slaves, ripples through the modern consciousness. We share in the enormity of their vision and ambitions. If book-bound lines like these can summon such nostalgia for pristine environs, then one look in the mirror ought to reveal how profoundly that long-held breath has changed us, opened airwaves and set us free to experience the world anew. Timelessly we are faced with our transcendent reflection, challenging us to embrace our neighbor, understand his or her plight, build new communities or discover our rightful place in humanity’s ever warping social fabric. Surely even the most humble contemplation of these existential bounds continues to match, if not exceed, our ability to marvel and divine?
This year’s edition of Monologging, titled Double Exposure, hones in on the expansive divide as well as blurred lines contrasting rural and urban communities. A lightly satirical riposte to this populist age in which we are asked to close up hearts and minds and to declare strange loyalties to rigid boundaries that can’t possibly define our spiritual amalgam, the themed inquiry has inspired a brilliant collection of poems, essays and new fiction compiled by members of an international community. Punctuated by photography and artwork, the magazine celebrates each contributor’s individuality while emphasizing our commitment to one another as collaborating creatives. May these works suffice as segue and invitation to The American Age , our new host platform.
“The American Age has one objective: to re-ignite zeal for the American idea,” writes Travis Webb, Chief Editor. If we hold with Locke that “in the beginning all the world was America,” then it follows that the Local-Global Collaborative Magazine we have labored to establish over the course of the last eight years runs parallel to the mission Webb outlines, and is a worthy corollary fueling discourse. Indeed, every person the world over has a stake in the American experiment because the American idea is not the property of the United States. The “American idea” Webb alludes to is a bonafide universal, and we are honored to participate in the publication as linked bloggers, featured guests, devoted presenters as well as listeners—sharing collaborative content. May our efforts light ideas that grant us all a share of hope.
Before we change guard, a very special thanks is due to Associate Editor, Natalie Kimber, for her help compiling this edition of Monologging. Without her tireless outreach to authors, thoughtful critiques and kind encouragement, this issue and previous editions would never have taken shape or reached publication. Likewise, we owe a sincere debt of gratitude to our social media directors, Sarah Chaneles and Katelyn Brunner for their creative efforts, helping us reach an ever broader audience.
And of course, uniting all, thanks be that “enchanted” element of chance. So many coincidences beyond our capacity for wonder have led us thus far fro.
– Jeffrey F. Barken –
June 24, 2019
Summer ’19 Contents