The mission of The The Mnemosyne Foundation is to bring to the arena of information available to the public at large image rich texts and exhibitions that explore the nature of culture, talent, and individual creativity in the hope that such explorations become a 'map' for the lay person to the treasury of knowledge and experience held in the field of studies we call the Humanities. Our presence will be an Internet Website environment guided by the parameters of academe. Our format falls somewhere between university level lectures and a specialized professional journal. Access to the Website is free, and navigation is aimed to be as straightforward and user friendly as allowable by the nature of our task. As the Website evolves, more and more essays will become available to our visitors in audio versions as well.
The Guiding Intention
For many of us our college days rank as among the best days of our lives - young, and resilient enough to hold a belief in dreams, and guided by the maturity of a bright intellect, not yet stultified by the slow accumulation of the eventful challenges of adult life.
I, for one, am a former academic, an art historian turned-free-lance scholar about a decade ago. It is my wish to give to all who would explore this Website, something of the precious concepts, ideas and information I was so fortunate to have taken with me from my university experiences - as college student, faculty member, and scholar. So, with some loyal colleagues and friends who share this vision, The The Mnemosyne Foundation has been established. It is our wish to explore the character and thought of nearer and distant cultures, and of distinguished personalities - historic and contemporary - in order to stir the continual, thoughtful, challenging quest for knowledge. In so doing, we hope to spark the inspired creativity and talent that lies within each and every one of us waiting to be discovered, supported, and engaged in the making of a better life and a better world.
Across recorded time, narrators have sung the praises of great men and women who have distinguished themselves by their exploits, enterprises, achievements and vision. Over the centuries these stories have been carefully woven into the discourse represented by the individual fields of study we identify as the Humanities, disciplines that safeguard the memory of human activity and study its implications. Though their complexion has changed and grown over the course of time, it has always been the special position of the Humanities to insure that the wisdom of the past guide us on our journey into the future. To be sure, mankind has been witness to the great heights reached by human achievement and to the depths to which we have sunk through human foibles and hubris. The sights of The The Mnemosyne Foundation are set on the achievements. Our aim is to decode the mechanisms that drive achievement, in the search for models to follow as we shape our own lives and collective future. It is our sincere wish to help to sustain the flame of inspired creativity that truly does burn within us through scrutiny and identification of those components of human nature that nurture the nobility of the human spirit and are the motivating forces that drive great deeds.
The concept that underpins the mission of the Foundation is embedded in its namesake, Mnemosyne, the most ancient and venerable mythological personification of Memory. Mnemoysne's earliest appearance is as a member of the primordial pantheon of gods known as the Titans, gods who belong to the untold ages of early oral history. I marvel that in a pristine moment before our very conscious relationship to time took hold, the human faculty of memory was already venerated.
In fact, so highly valued was memory that Mnemosyne's story continued on, spilling over into the myths surrounding the advance of culture associated with the newer generation of gods, the Olympians. Surviving the dethroning of Cronos (the most important of the Titans) by the Great Olympians, Mnemosyne partnered with Zeus and gave birth to the nine Muses. The Muses, we recall, are those famed goddesses, who by the time of the Odyssey (9th or 8th century B.C.) were nine in number and who, as culture evolved, were given aegis over diverse fields of inspired human endeavor, over thought and artistry in its many varied forms of expression - traditionally, Clio (History), Urania (Astronomy), Melpomene (Tragedy), Thalia (Comedy), Terpsichore (Dance), Calliope (Epic Poetry), Erato (Love Poetry), Polyhymnia (Songs to the Gods), and Euterpe (lyric Poetry).
It is worth noting that we find the personification of Memory alive and well in other mythologies too. Memory appears, for example, in the myths of the Norse gods, as the teacher, along with Thought, of the great sky father, Odin, seeker of wisdom, whose responsibility it was to postpone as long as possible the day of doom, when heaven and earth would be destroyed.
What I find extraordinary in the story of Mnemosyne is the association made between Memory and Creativity, joined in a single mythological archetype. It gives profound testimony, from the earliest moments of human consciousness, to the incredible importance attached by mankind to human achievement and to the ability of profound reflection; for it is reflection that differentiates us from much of the rest of the natural world, enabling us to deliberate upon & to process the impact of our actions. The precious, substantive message carried in the Mnemosyne myth is this: through awareness and study of the experiences indelibly etched on the pages of the diary of mankind we have in our hands the power to formulate intelligent models of thought and action upon which the artful crafting of our selves and our society depends.
So we invite you to join us as we wind our way through the ages - exploring the ever changing, kaleidoscopic map of the deeds of men, nations and civilizations - the "Shape of Time," as the eminent scholar, George Kubler, once described it - in an attempt to discover the essence, the common denominator that ignites great action. Imagine the wisdom that might result, if we could extract and apply to the strides made by the fields of sociology and psychology, in our own era, in the unraveling of the mystery of human behavior an understanding, gleaned from history, of the complex motivations that drive high-minded talent.
At the onset of this new millennium, events such as those of September 11, 2001, have brought with them a renewed confirmation of the need to believe in each other and in our individual potential, and to rely less on the now seemingly tenuous comfort zones promised by the modern societies that we thought would shield us. There seems to be a growing recognition that something is sorely missing, that a balance needs to be redressed. Balance, we recall, is the polar opposite of the state of chaos, and represents the impulse towards order and harmony. Whether in the ancient philosophies of the West and Asia, or in the contemporary mathematics of a John Nash, balance (plus / minus; binary function; gigantic / nano; yin / yang; male / female; old / new; birth / death; and on .) has been identified as a most critical component in the functioning of all things. It is, too, the simplest philosophical definition of the principle of aesthetics, and it is at the heart of inspired creative enterprise.
In our search for such balance, the cultures of older societies do provide us a key. They tell us that we must direct, anew, attention and dedication to the enterprise of the mindful development of the more noble aspects of our human nature and the resources we have within us, enterprises that virtually all past societies have identified as critical to advanced culture, culture that insures individuals a sense of pride, vitality, purposefulness, and true prosperity.
It is, after all, in the exercise of talent, of creativity stirred by memory and imagination, channeled through the appropriate discipline and rigor associated with mastery, and aimed at making a better world that we conquer the dull emptiness and malaise that so subtly but so surely corrodes our sense of well-being. It has always been within our grasp, and it surely is the only place where we can close the gap between the greater order of things and the mundane.
In service to its namesake, Mnemosyne, it is the express desire of The Foundation to rekindle a deep appreciation of that which the Humanities hold - a treasury of insight pointing to the pivotal position held by culture in the structuring of a robust and dynamic society. We would like, by revisiting the great deeds and inspired actions held precious by our near and distant ancestors, to spark inspired creativity and a sense of obligation on the part of each and every one of us to become constructive contributors to our new millennial, global culture. We hope to bring greater recognition and respect to the state of awareness that awakens in us, when we are working at our best (whatever our talent might be). It is an awareness that connects us, and sustains our attachment to our higher nature, that vantage point that yields the necessary vision to comprehend the fullest potential and meaning held in living.
It is in this context
that The The Mnemosyne Foundation hopes to stand as a measure of the extraordinary
and illuminated desire - as the call - of our intelligence to engage
our ingenuity and our artfulness (literally the ability to make and
to do) in order to become the self-directed artists of our lives, our
animae, our minds and hearts, and, ultimately, of our world.
As it grows, the Foundation will look forward to establishing physical exhibitions that would take the form of an environment. The aim of the exhibitions is to create an experience much like - to pick a familiar example - that of a gothic cathedral, where, once inside, every detail cumulatively describes the central guiding theme.
Among the subjects we shall touch upon are the themes of:
-'self fashioning' (even as it extends to the world of design and haute couture);
-the 'aesthetics of thought;'
of a life well lived (as can be discovered through the example of
So The The Mnemosyne Foundation is meant as an Internet resource, the primary aim of which is edification. It is meant to be a place - in the imposing virtual world of every sort of information reserve available - where one might come, as did those to the academies of yore, and as they still do to continuing ed programs, to stop a while and read, hopefully to learn, and to encounter an atmosphere in which to reflect and to imagine. It is our aim to devote our programs to the enrichment of all who would wish to access them, and especially to the caretakers of our population, the adults who devote so much time to sustaining our society and looking after the well being of our youth. It is our goal (through our Website and eventually through public exhibitions) to cultivate the disposition of mind and spirit that drives creativity at its best, that imparts a strong sense of identity, purposefulness, and fulfillment as human beings, and ultimately, cumulatively contributes to the making of a better world.
In a moment in time, when the first impression the word memory makes is 'megabyte storage capability,' The The Mnemosyne Foundation will take advantage of the great technological tool of 'megabyte' memory - the computer and Website Internet technology - hopefully to instill in us a passionate appreciation of our own human capacity for memory. We aim to keep our line of sight steadily on the lessons found in the disciplines we term the Humanities and to turn mindfully towards our true potential as human beings. Through reflection upon the dynamic evolution of the landscape of human endeavor across the ages, we aim to identify the recurring patterns that bear fruit as insights into the nature of our humanity so as to better inform our conscious choices in the present.
May we never tire
of tapping the great potential that lies within us, that stirs the extraordinary
flight of vision and imagination - that which the ancients called 'fantasia'!
Our hope is that some inspiration would be found in these pages that
might become a key as to how to operate, more and more, from a noble
place of mind and heart and in so doing make our own and the lives of
others even fuller and richer than we could possibly imagine.