Hernandez: Enough with lamenting lost soul
There has been a deluge of letters and columns over the past several months, not to mention
one in a national publication, regarding the loss of Aspen’s soul.
As a local resident of 35 years, I acknowledge the many changes to our community, some for the better, some for not. I am not, however, willing to admit to the loss of our beloved town’s soul.
Over my years here, I have witnessed and been in awe of Aspen’s soul. The Daly family
tragedy, and the loss of Robbie Wade come to mind as shining examples of our town’s
compassion. The Aspen community rallied during these dark moments to comfort, heal, and to
regenerate. These attributes were on full display last year during the Lee family tragedy.
Rather than lament as to what has changed, and perceived as lost, I propose we redirect our
collective prospective and seek solutions to help us re invigorate Aspen’s soul by reclaiming our
town’s founding DNA.
Aspen’s rich and storied past is the attribute that makes us unique.
The Paepcke’s founding erudite vision for Aspen was “Mind, Body, and Spirit.” This was the cornerstone of the 1949 Goethe Bicentennial Festival that inaugurated modern Aspen. This beautiful psalm has, to some, seemingly faded against the rapid changes we are witnessing, and the many challenges we face.
Many featured intellectuals, writers and classical musicians attended the 1949 festival. The
Aspen Institute and The Music Festival are direct results of this event. The most celebrated
visitor was Dr. Albert Schweitzer. It was his only appearance in the United States. A physician,
theologian, Bach scholar and a future Noble Peace Prize winner, his visit to Aspen was well
chronicled in Life Magazine.
A bust of Dr. Schweitzer is quietly tucked into a corner of Paepcke Park. It is time to give the
exceptional doctor a more prominent presence and the acknowledgement he so deserves. The
current memorial should be redesigned to reflect his importance, significance, and his ongoing
relevance to our town.
The updated memorial would serve as a constant reminder of Aspen’s modern founding.
Perhaps a day annually could be designated to commemorate the Paepckes, their vision, and
the humanitarianism of Dr. Schweitzer.
The “Mind, Body, Spirit” ideal should be elevated and celebrated to become palpable. It needs to be the vanguard of who we are, and more importantly, who we hope to become as community.
This exercise will not alleviate traffic, nor solve our housing issues. However, fashioning our
founding ideals to a more conscious place, just might make us all a bit more patient, tolerant
and grateful we are able to reside and share in this special place.
Cecil Hernandez is a resident of Aspen.