Monday, January 15, 2007

On the Symbolism of Dr. King's National Memorial

When one considers Dr. King, I think it is important to separate the Man from the Icon. Although the Man may be considered flawed in some way, his spiritual struggle was always to increase the total Good in the Nation and in the World. Men are never perfect: our Literary Christ also cried, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani.” For Dr. King, the Man aside, the tribute paid his Name by the National Memorial is a truly poetic way to incorporate his Icon into the fabric of our Nation’s heritage.

The Memorial site, situated on a “line of leadership” connecting the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials, is landscaped to include cherry trees that blossom at the time of Dr. King’s death, and a stone walkway along the water’s edge.

The intent of the landscaping is to emphasize Water, Stone, and the Tree as key symbolic features of the site.

Water is used to symbolize Justice. Justice, like Water, will dissolve all obstacles, by Force or by Patience.

Stone is used to symbolize the Democratic Struggle. The relationship of Dr. King’s National Monument to the Monuments of other leaders urges us to remember that other Men have struggled to erect these Monuments. Deliberately unfinished channels of Water flowing into the Stone walkway remind us that the Struggle is as unending as the Tide.

The Tree is used to symbolize Hope. Although Nature is a product of cycles, and the Mother of cruel Winter, Life must by Nature pursue the Beautiful and the Good.

Venerated messages from Antiquity resonate with the symbolism of Dr. King's Monument, from Plato who taught that Life is worth little if not for Poetry, to the Icons of our Democracy.

This symbolism is universal: Nature sees that mountains always rise, and Natures sees that any mountain can be washed away... but we, as Men under Nature, need Peace to preserve these Monuments for other Men.

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