During my first visit to Indianapolis, where I traveled for a work-related conference, it was suggested that I visit the famous Soldier’s and Sailor’s Monument located at Monument Circle. A Facebook friend noted that Indiana has the most monuments in the nation, second only to Washington, D.C.
The large, limestone monolith taking center stage in downtown Indy, impresses. On the western and eastern exposures large fountains soothe and larger-than-life sculptures jut out with brave effigies and stone faces awash in various stages of triumph or torment.
Before I left on this trip, I began watching the 25th anniversary replaying of Ken Burn’s The Civil War. I continued doing so while in Indiana. And so, this poignant memorial carried a special weight and significance. The toll of armed conflict was on my mind. Why does this country always seem to be at war? This memorial commemorates many wars fought, long ago, and seemingly many more memorials still to be erected, etched, and sculpted. Why aren’t we learning the lessons these monument teach? Without taking anything away from the service of brave souls of our past, these are the type of future tourist attractions I yearn might become extinct.
This soldier’s face, captured with my iPhone 6, moved me. Carved in limestone, he carries the torment and anguish of battle within his face. I did not know the name of this specific piece when I snapped the photo. His body collapsed, I imagined him still alive, cognizant. His expression conveying the realization of his impending death. His hands, once pounded out the rhythm of war upon a snare drum, has relinquished the drumsticks, and relaxing with approaching death, do not reach up to an ethereal light or a visionary escape. Like the striations produced by weather and soot, which coat the sculpture, life unevenly flows away in gushes and slow, unsightly streaks. He succumbs to his fate passively, resigned, I think, with the shock and horror of his personal violent end already a fading memory. As he looks down, his chin hangs over a small ledge. I wonder what object he might be focusing upon as his vision fades. Is he reaching for those sticks? Or is he listening to the final rhythms of his own weakening heartbeat, the quieting pulses ushering him into the unknown? I dubbed him with the working title, “The Face of War” and I sought to find more about the memorial. According to Wikipedia (the official website was down) he is called “The Dying Man” forever caught upon the fulcrum of the living and the dead. More information on the monument here.
The streaks, drying unevenly from a recent Indiana rain, contributes to the life-draining pathos of the sculpture.