by Gary Berg-Cross
Washington DC is a great city to visit for scientific and humanities treasures. One repository of humanist and intellectual expression is the Jefferson building of the Library of Congress. This Beaux-Arts palace was constructed from the wealth of the Gilded Age which yielded its prosperity to the more hopeful reform of a Progressive era. It was an age of science and technology celebrating in World Fairs and Edison seeming to invent just what we needed.
In this atmosphere the Library of Congress building was constructed,. The building as a whole reflects a Jeffersonian spirit, child of the Enlightenment idea that intelligence and an informed public is necessary for democracy and society. One can enjoy the joyful expression of this principle and many supporting ideas on the walls of the Jefferson building of the Library.
SCIENCE IS ORGANIZED KNOWLEDGE
Herbert Spencer, Essays, "The Genesis of Science," Vol. ii, 1.
Around the corner, facing the staircase, a poet speaks:
BEAUTY IS TRUTH, TRUTH BEAUTY
Keats, Ode on a Grecian Urn
On the other side of the staircase a 17th mediation on life and death:
TOO LOW THEY BUILD WHO BUILD BENEATH THE STARS
Edward Young, Night Thoughts, "Night," viii, 215
And around the corner, facing the Great Hall is something naturalistic philosophy:
THERE IS BUT ONE TEMPLE IN THE UNIVERSE
AND THAT IS THE BODY OF MAN
Novalis, Philosophy and Physics
The feeling of historical wisdom washes over me in the presence of these thoughts. Lucky visitors can enjoy these and more that show some of humanistic cultural wisdom inherited from Greco-Roman times up to the great writers, thinkers and artists of the 19th century. They have much to say that is worth reflecting about in our times.
THE NOBLEST MOTIVE IS THE PUBLIC GOOD Virgil