Interesting article in the LA Times today on how today's Web 2.0 millionaire entrepreneurs pour their wealth into start-ups and non-profits, rather than consumption.
This is a good a time as any to delve at least through the surface of what I see as a potential Renaissance birthing (potential, as in it's a matter of desire--not imposed).
This deserves more consideration, but here's a start.
WHAT WE BUILD, rather than WHAT WE BUY
"This is not a community that values good looks, visible wealth or having a hot body. Those are not the ways that they distinguish high status from low status," [Alice] Marwick said. "Technology millionaires don't hobnob with celebrities or buy a fancy car. They travel to Thailand or they fund an incubator. These things are just as expensive, but that's the classic hacker ethos that prizes the mind, not materials."
. . . Silicon Valley measures achievement by what entrepreneurs build, not what they buy." - "Silicon Valley status symbols emphasize mind over material", LA Times, by Jessica Guynn, June 18, 2011
"I've been playing a game where each day I pretend I am given a written check of a different denomination--for instance, day 1 I receive a $1000 check. Day 2 I receive a $2000 check, and so on---thus day 20 would be $20,000 and day 52 would be $52,000. It is a tougher game to play than I had imagined.
Most days (I'm only on day 10) I use the money to do some sort of public art installation, publish a journal (with artwork from a collaborator I have in mind), or arrange a retreat, conference or Salon with other folks, or otherwise spend it on things that aren't for me, alone. This is partly due to the fact that I'm a minimalist, and partly because I enjoy producing things much much more than consuming things.
I've made a lot of money in my yuppie past, and found that stuff just never did it for me; back then I was into experiences--that meant marathan-running or eating out at new restaurants or traveling to exotic countries or having front-row seats to the Pioneer Theatre. (Fine, marathon-running is NOT a spectator sport but generally much of what I did for pastimes was to pass time.)
Nowadays experiences don't appeal to me that are sit-down, sightsee, spectator-based either; I prefer to produce, participate, play. I'll be in the parade banging the tambourine along with the others, not watch from the sidelines." - Evelyn Rodriguez
In the LA Times story, Alice Murdock asserts that hacker culture is a masculine culture. I like my culture hackeresque... that's indie, that's self-organizing decentralized bubbling up grassroots rather than hierachical top-down gate-keepered, that's freedom of expression, an expressed culture (yeah, we were that idealistic in 1997)-------------------->
Actually, hacker ethos is a pretty whole-brained, holistic thing. It's sort of Whole Earth catalogy, even.
Recently, venture capitalist Fred Wilson--and, note he's based in New York City--mused about the next 'Net thing (in other words, Web 1.0 was about investing in building block infrastructure, Web 2.0 is about applications) and bouncing off Carlotta Perez' work he forecasts a coming cultural revolution. I would like to agree with him. (What I mean by that is I doubt it's a sure thing unless we want it to be so.)
All I know is, count me in for a cultural Renaissance (adore that word a bit more than revolution).
One reason I left Silicon Valley is I didn't feel an epicurean sensitivity to simple refinement and beauty I desired. I suppose the pendulum swung wee too far yang ever since they decimated the plum orchards for those semiconductor labs.
Looking back, I believe an awakened sublime and sensuous cultivation for the yin was nurtured by savoring Italy three times in a single year (while consulting to Telecom Italia's Internet portal division, Virgilio, and to the ISP division). I pitched them social networking (using Ryze and Friendster as examples--there were no others yet), and they pitched me conviviality (including face-to-face old-fashioned rapport and authentic networking).
I enjoyed picking ripe tomatoes out in the family I was staying with's garden (outside Turin with Monte Bianco a stone's throw away), drinking handmade vino from their own vineyard, sharing a potluck al fresco feast with friends, and returning to my dreamtime in their mulberry treehouse. Bested any five-star experience I've ever had.
Italian imagination and midsummer night festivity influenced the first Salon I hosted August 2006 to mix and mingle media, food, techie, and arts folks.
Then, after a while all fancy restaurants had this sense of "been there, done that," (plus the sense of doing for me rather than with me). At least for me, I'd come to the point where I wasn't nurtured by consumption. (You may think yin is passive, but it's also the creative numinous, the fertile imagination painting visions in the aether--otherwise known as ideas, etc.) There was something more engaging and enthralling to participating with than being pampered to.
"One of my favourite movie scenes has always been the alfresco birthday dinner party that Juliette Binoche’s character throws Armande (Judi Dench) in the fairytale-like film, Chocolat. The casual backyard setting, in a quaint French village, features a rough-around-the-edges wire framed canopy, folding wood chairs and a long, linen-covered harvest table. Completely proletariat but utterly timeless and stylish in a way that the French pull off better than anyone. This kind of comfortable and chic setting inspires easy conversation, drinking copious amounts of red wine and gathering with friends well past sunset — and ends with empty bottles, burned-down candles, live music and dancing into the wee hours. My kind of dinner party!" - Andrea Mills, Canadian House and Home
THE WILL TO DO IT
Nowadays, perhaps because I've lived in five cities since I left San Jose, CA in 2008, I am more inspired by an encompassing, planetary vision of Renaissance, rather pinning it to a specific place be it New York City or London or name-your-tangible-patch-of-land.
Renaissance... it's little like the etherealness of the Internet (which isn't tied to geography) and the etherealness of Shambhala, "a borderless kingdom of meditation practitioners committed to realizing enlightenment and social harmony through daily life." And mostly like the way James Carse describes the attitude of horizons (see Bonus below).
The other day I was thinking how much I enjoyed the Foothill Writers Conference when I participated in 2006, and how much my writing flourished from my attendance there that summer, and checked online to see if I could make it an excuse for visiting the Valley this summer. Lo, and behold, I find that it was cancelled in 2010 due to lack of sponsorship, and that may be its fate this year too. In Los Altos, where the Foothill College, the hosts of the writing workshop, is located: "According to a 2007 estimate, the median household income was $158,745, and the median income for a family was $185,848." Having been there, it's true that the Valley peninsula is a prosperous place (by banking standards) so much so that the lame economy excuse doesn't really explain why arts are left to languish.
"our kids attend schools where art is required every day. as it should be" -- Fred Wilson in the comments to his own post, "To Science and Art"
When John F. Kennedy asked Dr. Wernher von Braun what would it take to build and send a rocket ship to the moon, he replied, "The will to do it."
Last night, I was reading Reflections on the Art of Living: A Joseph Campbell Companion, edited by Diane K. Osbon, and this popped vivid. Oh, so relevant:
"From what I have seen in the history of the arts in New York, when money is poured on something it flowers. With money there has to be a flow. I had a beautiful experience of a man with money when I was a trustee of the Bollinger Foundation, which was founded by Paul Mellon, an enormously wealthy man. He and his wife had been in analysis with Carl Jung when the war came and they had to leave Switzerland. They asked Jung what they could give him in the way of a gift to express their gratitude for what he had done. He suggested they establish a foundation for the interpretation and study of symbols. That's whay they did, and it is an example of a lot of money being put to the right use. The influence of that Bollinger Series on on the literature and science of America has been enormous.
. . . When you put the money in the wrong place, it can be devastating. Where is the money [and its activating of priorities by what it attends to] going and where is it coming from in the economy of a nation, the economy of a city? You can turn a flowering culture into a desiccating culture just by wrong channeling. What factor in your own consciousness are you going to favor in the spending of the money? For instance, I have a seventy-five-dollar book coming out. Some people will say that is expensive, but those same people will spend one-hundred-and-fifty dollars to have dinner in a restaurant with another couple. So, is the money going up here in your mind or is it going down there in your stomach?" - Joseph Campbell (recommend the longer excerpt of Campbell's money musings in, "Money is a Congealed Energy and Releasing it Releases Life Possibilities")
YIN YANG OF CREATIVE CULTURE AND INNOVATION
"Science and art are seen as two very distinct endeavors and I suppose they are. But I see science and art as the yin yang of creative culture and innovation." - Fred Wilson, "To Science and Art"
This is not meant to be a treastise on art, nor a plea for art. Rather liken it to seeding the inquiry that maybe art is different. Different from technology (and I'm a computer engineering grad, so I'm not making that up), as different as day is from night or female from male or inside from outside. Different. Not implying better or worse. Not hierarchy; rather, harmony. Complementary contraries. Technology often strives for functionality. Not so art: its purpose is, well, different (almost pointless in that it can often precipitate in a primordial pre-thought). Since it's fresh, and resonant, for me, quoting Campbell from last night's book again:
"What I understand art to be, then, is the revealing power of maya: the production in music, in dance, in the visual arts, and in literature of such "divinely superfluous beauty," of objects for esthetic arrest which are of no practical use, but which open up dimensions within. And the projecting power of maya, on the other hand, I take to be desire and loathing, which link you in phenomenal discourse to the object as object. It is as clear and clean as that." - Joseph Campbell, Reflections on the Art of Living, edited by Diane K. Osbon
I don't exactly advocate swinging the pendulum from yang to yin, from active to receptive, from external to internal. The equinimity of equilibrium might be nice for a change (who knows, I've never seen it fully yet).
In Sufi master and author Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee's essay, Invoking the World Soul, quoted below (I've enjoyed hearing him speak several times when I lived in the Bay Area), he is sharing Platonic ideals (and overall newfound appreciation for philosophies and arts of antiquity--Greek and Egyptian that the printing press made easier to share) embraced by many Renaissance philosophers and artists that diversified and expanded some of the pendulum extremes of the prior Ages and of the times (i.e. the Inquisition was still pretty robust, ask Pico della Mirandola):
. . . .In the Renaissance, the world soul animated and formed nature according to divine proportions. And once again the garden of the world was enchanted with magical power and transcendent meaning — implicit in every part of nature. This was this wonderful relationship in the Renaissance between the imagination and the creative principle in life. And there was this extraordinary flowering that really came from the divine feminine within the imagination, within life, and it was celebrated. Once again the garden of the soul was here in this world. It wasn’t just after you died in heaven, in paradise; it was here in the art that the Renaissance masters created. And this is why, for some of us, the Renaissance touches the soul now so deeply and why there has been a revival of understanding of what happened in the Renaissance. " - Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Invoking the World Soul
This is corroborated in several Wikipedia entries (my better resources are in storage) of the greatest influencers of Renaissance look and feel, for instance:
Marsilio Ficino "espousing the Neoplatonist view of the world's ensoulment and its integration with the human soul. "[...] There will be some men or other, superstitious and blind, who see life plain in even the lowest animals and the meanest plants, but do not see life in the heavens or the world [...] Now if those little men grant life to the smallest particles of the world, what folly! what envy! neither to know that the Whole, in which 'we live and move and have our being,' is itself alive nor to wish this to be so."" - Wikipedia
I'm coming full circle to the title of the collection of Joseph Campbell writings I am reading, I mean the title itself is worthy of reflection:
Reflections on the ART OF LIVING.
And, considering the kind of culture we are creating is the one we are devoting ourselves to day by day minute by minute, not the culture 'they' are creating as they includes us (remember, we're hackers).
And, I come back to Italian ethos too again,
"I thought -- and now I know -- that Italians claim more time for their lives." - Frances Mayes, Under the Tuscan Sun
p.s. This post was setting a bit of context-setting, however, I'd prefer future ones on new Renaissance to be more off-the-cuff, spontaneous and daring in a improvisational sense so it leans more towards the future than past history (while planted in present, and presence too). If there are any excerpts or article links--they'll be in the footnotes, at the end.
BONUS: Sramana Mitra wrote a great 3-part article on her compelling vision for a Silicon Valley Renaissance, that also values arts and culture. I added my two cents in the comments in part three.
BONUS 2: Really worth reading James Carse on his refreshing view of the Renaissance and metaphorically referring to cultures as horizons: "There is nothing in the horizon itself, however, that limits vision, for the horizon opens onto all that lies beyond itself." An aside, Flickr founding team was very influenced by Infinite and Finite Games, too. Kevin Kelly, in What Technology Wants, praised it for "alter[ing] my thinking about life, the universe, and everything."
Here's wee tidbit (my favorite longer excerpts of "Finite and Infinite Games: A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility" here):
"Who lives horizontally is never somewhere, but always in passage. [Note to ourself: Thus, the crossroads...always a new crossroad. Always liminal, infinitely unfolding at the edge...]
Since culture is horizontal it is not constrained by time or space.
To the degree that the Renaissance was a true culture it has not ended. Anyone may enter into its mode of renewing vision. This does not mean that we repeat what was done. To enter a culture is not to do what others do, but to do whatever one does with the others." - James Carse
ART CREDITS: "Once given the marvelous new capabilities..." quote box via 1997 essay (it does still rock conceptually), Create or Be Created: How the Internet Cultural Renaissance is Turning Audience Members into Artists, by William Butler O'Conner; Photo still from one of my favorite movies, Chocolat, via Heirloom Philosophy; photo from backyard birthday party created by Jeremy for Ashley (they're the photography duo, we are the parsons) via 100 Layer Cake; exuberant public art (and very metaphoric!) via Honestly WTF: "Not only was it balls to the wall amazing, it was 110% real! And honestly, who doesn’t love bouncy balls? Danish photographer Peter Funch was there to capture the impressive spectacle and thanks to my new favorite online art store, Lumas, the limited edition prints are available for sale."; btw, my $2000 bcheck went to secure a Solar Blossom, "a pop up art gallery that is powered by solar and is inspired by the Bluebonnet flower" via Treehugger.