Who are you?
What is the magazine about?
Why would I want to spend some of my valuable time reading it?
We are people like you, passionate about life, the arts and ideas that make a difference; we like the playful and thoughtful interaction of words, music and images; we care about the preservation and transmission of culture and the environment; we are both worried and hopeful about the current state of the world; we think positively but not naively about technology and innovation and we want to reconnect science and the humanities for the service of mankind.
Like you, we do not want to live in a world where people are told to get into a compartment and stay put. We want to move around squares and look behind boxes, and that is what we have been doing for most of our lives. We love mingling with challenging minds and kindred spirits, no matter if they lived hundreds of years ago, or today, or are still to be born. We are not afraid to travel in space and time in the pursuit of knowledge. In a way, this magazine is a time- machine and we want you to come with us for a ride, forward to the past and back to the proverbial future, but never losing sight of the present.
Maybe our shared passions and goals amount to squaring the circle. Well, that is precisely what people we admire have been trying to do for ages, from the Greek philosophers to the Alchemists in the Middle Ages or even Michelangelo and his fellow geniuses in the Renaissance, all the way down to our times:
Michelangelo’s design for Capitoline Hill in Rome, as engraved by Étienne Dupérac, 1568, British Museum, London.
Do not misunderstand us. For us, Squaring the Circle does not mean combining ciphers and letters in order to find any kind of arcane philosophical stone. It is not about resurrecting old rituals or founding new religions. It is about trying to bring together what was once divided: Man, Mind and Nature. It is an attempt that springs from an unabashed Western humanistic standpoint but that encompasses every variety of mankind´s experience – no matter its geographical or chronological expression- provided that it passes three tests: does it enlarge man’s capacities of mind and spirit?, does it help us to find our harmonious place in Nature and the Cosmos?, and last but not least: does it make us better?
Though we had been toying with it for a while, the actual idea for creating this magazine occurred to us on a winter afternoon, in January 2017, after a walk around Bloomsbury Square in London, a place known for having gathered some of the most brilliant, provocative and visionary minds in the first half of the XXth century. Charles Dickens’ home museum and Bertrand Russell´s former apartments are not far from there and it is just a few minutes away from the British Museum, the Warburg Institute, the School of Oriental and African Studies and some of the best bookshops in London, like the London Literary Magazine´s Bookshop or Arthur Probsthain´s, not to talk of the legendary high tea served in the adjacent Russell Hotel or the very fine and homely Asian restaurants that have sprouted around the area. It was while having a delightful okonomiyaki in one of them when the title and the general outlook of the magazine suddenly came to our minds. We called it a perfect match between East and West, one of the themes we want to highlight in our endeavours.
We then reconvened our meetings some weeks later in our usual coffee shop in Madrid, El Pabellón del Espejo, at Columbus Square and the National Library, and the project started to take shape all the way up and down to this Zero Issue. It was not that difficult, for our minds usually work in sync and complement each other quite well. We had met years before in Madrid during some informal seminars about foreign policy organized by Marcelino Oreja, a senior Spanish statesman, former European Commissioner and Minister of Foreign Affairs in the early times of Spain´s democratic transition. After the seminars ended we kept on meeting in different places around the world, wherever our respective professions took us, sharing ideas and projects on the move, like a book on the Geopolitics of Energy in the Arctic or a biography of Thomas Jefferson, a man we both admire as a human embodiment, with all his contradictions, of Classic and Revolutionary Times.
Squaring the Circle in an emblem illustrating the esoteric book Atalanta Fugiens by Michael Maier, 1617.
Portrait of the Jesuit Father Adam Schall dressed in the Chinese manner, from Athanasius Kircher´s China Illustrata, 1677.
From that winter walk around Bloomsbury Square to this precise moment it was all about finding a good design to showcase our vision and embarking some fellow travelers on what we hope will become an expanding community of dwellers, passersby and onlookers, all rightful inhabitants of this Global Square. We would like to consider you as one of us. Welcome, then, to The Global Square.
And now let us say a word about the design, which is very closely intertwined with the contents of the magazine. We like Joseph Cornell´s work. He was a New York City artist, shy and reclusive, who made boxes full of miscellaneous objects he found in his frequent perambulations. The objects are thus enclosed, but arranged in ways that are suggestive of all kind of unsuspected wonders and journeys of the mind. Some of his collages remind us of those Advent Calendars so usual in the Germanic world where every December day is marked on a lid that has to be open to discover a treat. So we thought that our cover could resemble a kind of imaginary Joseph Cornell´s Advent Calendar in which every reader could get in, move around and look behind to find a surprise to his or her liking in each box.
Since our project is quite comprehensive in scope, we have created our own boxes within the Square, each one devoted to a general area of knowledge. Thus we came up with eleven boxes (though the number could be changed as we evolve) that will correspond to regular features in our magazine: on geopolitics and current affairs in Mackinder´s Armchair; the humanities, science and innovation in The Curiosity Cabinet; environmental issues in The Green Rotunda; philosophical enquires taken to the edge in Ludwig´s Hut; law, politics and the public good in the Global Agora; examples of Cosmopolitan Biographies appealing to our sense of wonder and adventure; the varieties of creative expression in the Global Arcade; experiencing The Lost Art of Travel; literary criticism related to topics of relevance in Reading is Living; encounters with extraordinary people in Conversations and Disputations and the meeting between East and West On a Namban Byobu. Every section will have at least one extended essay per issue. The topics of those essays will vary, but not the vision and perspective that will inspire their presentation: cultured, yet accessible with a degree of effort; seriously ironic and always connecting apparently disparate threads of facts and thoughts.
Beatrice guides Dante as he ascends from the lower ‘sea of being’ to the nine spheres of Heaven, from the Paradiso, Italy1444- c. 1450, Yates Thompson Manuscript, f. 130. British Library, London.
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