Through drawing and reinterpreting symbols, we can express and explore visions for America. In the drawing above, there are 4 zones of text, read from top to bottom:
“MDCCLXXVI ←→ MMXX”
“Novus Ordo Seclorum”
“The Great Promise”
The drawing is styled after the back (or is it the front?) of “The Great Seal”, which can be found on the back (or is it the front?) of the $1 USA dollar bill. To facilitate comparison, the reference image is shown here. We can start at the bottom of the drawing and build to the conclusion at the top.
“The Great Promise” is America’s foundational Promise to itself and the world. It isn’t always easy to follow the faint golden thread of this Promise amidst the red, white, and blue swirls; though I have learned that this thread can be traced, taught, and extended. The thin dotted thread of the Promise surrounds the entire known space of the drawing. This reflects the total scope, yet fragile nature, of the ongoing American experiment. I see that the Markov blanket of the American Promise is tattered but the circle remains unbroken. Maybe the hypothesis we are testing in the American experiment is something like: We hypothesize that within the manifest domain of this Promise (everywhere), we as Americans will always be vigilant, virtuous, and high-minded.
“Novus Ordo Seclorum” is a Latin phrase that has multiple different translations and senses in English (culturally-imbued terms can defy translation). We can take it word-by-word, and consider what each part of the phase might mean. “Novus” resonates with English words like New, Novel, and Nova. “Novus” invokes the explosive and exciting regeneration process that is the reality of the fight for American values. “Ordo” recalls two senses of “Order”. The first sense of Order here is something like, “How do we as America Order ourselves internally and also Order others external to our borders?”. The second sense of Order is akin to a sequential temporal ordering (blockchain, tapestry, choose your metaphor). In this second sense, the book that is America can always receive a new chapter and annotation, a new contribution, solution, perspective, or strategy. The events of the past can not be changed; they can be (and should be) reinterpreted and reanalyzed. We are empowered and have impact as citizens when we connect authentically to the multiple perspectives and events that contribute to American history. “Seclorum” sounds like Secular (as in, the legal separation of Church and State), but actually derives from the term “saeculum” meaning “length of time roughly equal to the potential lifetime of a person or, equivalently, of the complete renewal of a human population”. This term’s use here is interesting, since it hints at both the life-long internal alchemy that is patriotism, as well as the population-level dynamics of a political demos.
MDCCLXXVI is the number 1776 written in Roman numerals, MMXX is the number 2020 written in Roman numerals. America is built on the foundation of the past, which means that we stand on the shoulders of 1776 and every other year as well. Too much focus on 1776 can be misleading, it can lead to a tendency to downplay the relevance of other pre- and post-1776 events and people. In this drawing, the pyramid has a foundation that is anchored in the complete continuum of all the past and present, a fabric inclusive of all perspectives. Building on this multi-dimensional foundation, the steps of the pyramid reflect not the degrees of esoteric initiation, but the ways in which citizens can raise up America and the World. The pyramid is a flag, because American values guide us upwards, every step of the way. The shadowy side of the pyramid is infinite, since what America hides is truly enormous. The pyramid has wings like an eagle, or maybe like an angel, because this is how the American pyramid scheme escapes “turtles all the way down” – we are flying high and we are doing it live!
Atop the pyramid, instead of an illuminated capstone that exudes a dark symbology, we find an American flag (yes, another one). This reflects the notion that service to the country really is the highest possible vision for a citizen. Of course each person’s manifested behavior, and therefore their destiny, results from the interaction of value systems, constraints, influences,etc. – but for the purposes of improvised emblematic logos, suffice to say that no higher vision exists than that Grand Old Flag!
The top of the drawing reads “Annuit cœptis”, another Latin phrase. “Annuit” apparently derives from a term related to divine approval, and “cœptis” is a modified plural word that refers to an ensemble of undertakings. I leave it to the viewer to research the wildly-contrasting English translations of this phrase available, and consider what they might mean in the context of the American story. Suffice to say that if “Annuit cœptis” has to do with a divine or synchronistic approval of pluralism (pluralism sensu Aristotle, anti-Federalists, Tarski, Krishnamurti, Longino, and others), then I am onboard.
Above even the Grand Old Flag in the drawing, is an infinitely-graded equilateral triangle. This triangle is a placeholder for the true stuff of American Exceptionalism; that which animates the patriot’s yearning, the powerful visions and values that make our banner a symbol worth protecting. The layout of the visual parable is as such: After a citizen scales the steps of the American pyramid to reach the top, they must then jump upwards and pass through the veil of the flag. Remember that the American flag is not the territory of patriotism, it is the map. For so many missions, this map is needed dearly: to see once in a while as inspiration, and to carry inside always. The highest service to a symbol, always transcends the symbol itself. The American spirit is a politicized formalization of this metaphysical idea – and if that is not Exceptional, I do not know what is.