The term “junto” — yes, junto, not the more familiar “junta” — is “a small group meeting in secret for a common purpose,” or “a group of men united in some secret intrigue; a cabal.” These have spooky connotations, but secret intrigue is not what’s intended here.
I first encountered the term several years ago when I stumbled onto a reference to Benjamin Franklin’s junto, a social club he founded in Philadelphia in 1727. The group met regularly for 30 years to discuss important ideas — values, economics, philosophy, government, science, and business — for the enjoyment and edification of its members and, ultimately, of society.
In that sense, a junto is like a salon. Wikipedia defines a salon as “a gathering of people under the roof of an inspiring host, held partly to amuse one another and partly to refine the taste and increase the knowledge of the participants through conversation . . . Salons, commonly associated with French literary and philosophical movements of the 17th and 18th centuries, were carried on until quite recently in urban settings.”
Actually, salons are not so uncommon among Vermont artists. They differ from parties only in that conversation isn’t limited to small talk; they encourage poetry reading, thoughtful monologues, musical performances, and focused discussion of cultural topics.
A blog is perfect for the purposes of a virtual salon/junto. It has broad reach, inclusivity, asynchronicity, interactivity, archiving, linking, and nonlinear content-structure potential. That is, in some ways it’s even better than a bunch of people yakking it up in a room!
So that’s what this blog is: a junto, a salon. Everyone with something relevant to say is invited to participate. I am beginning the blog with personal reflections on exceptional individuals I’ve met — “Meetings With Remarkable People” — but this site won’t be limited to a single topical focus. I welcome comments and guest posts from others seeking engagement of this sort with a broader community.