We are a well running dry
7 Billion Crowns, and the role of culture and creativity in society
Where do new ideas come from? The kind of ideas that fire the imagination and break the hold of tyrant and tradition. How are discoveries made? Inventions? Innovations? How do works of art arise? New melodies that suddenly shine a light on some vast, hidden landscape of the soul; new stories that wake us up to a new understanding of our own story. Where do all these things come from?
And can you see how important all this creativity is. It’s the wellspring of society. These ideas and inspirations are the reason behind our doing anything at all—the goals and dreams that fire our will. With them we build our sense of identity, give meaning to our life. They are our shared culture—and out of this cultural conversation comes everything new in society, every new step in human rights and governance, every new development in the arts, in science, in the economy.
Wherever new ideas come from, they clearly come through people. We are the fountain through which the water of creativity flows. Each one of us has the potential to bring some gift to the table. This is what we’ve come here to do. Give. Work. Serve. We can feel it in our bones. But it’s no easy task.
And we’re not asking each other for these gifts. We’ve forgotten them. We’d rather sleep—seek a life of ease, of comfort and entertainment. But it’s an uneasy, sickly ease. As we forget those dreams, those gifts, we suffer—become sick, angry, and depressed. And society becomes sick. It’s no longer fed, nourished, moved forward. This is where we are. Our culture is shriveling. We are a well running dry.
So we should ask the question: what are conditions that encourage the cultivation and giving of gifts? Clearly education should play an important role in helping individuals discover their gifts, their work. And then the community has to want those gifts, has to be able to recognize and be moved by them. If a person is to give their gift there has to be some person to receive it, otherwise the gift finds no ground to take root in and so can’t do its work of bringing something new into the world.
If I can recognize the beauty that another person brings, it’s up to me to support it. Who else? The State? Why would we want our government to blindly support creativity? So that everyone gets a check and we no longer need each other? This is a cop-out. We need each other. It’s not the State’s task to recognize individual gifts, but, instead, to protect the rights common to all.
Nonetheless, our social systems need to change dramatically so that everyone is able to live a dignified life, to have meaningful work, and to support each other’s gifts. We need free time in order to be able to experience culture, and enough money to support it. We don’t need the philanthropy of kings anymore, we don’t need a bureaucrat or Bill Gates deciding what ideas, what forms of art and education, thrive. We need “democratic philanthropy”—everyone having enough to give.
We need to to create the social forms that will let this wellspring of culture flow anew. But we can’t wait till things have changed. Our work is now. We can prioritize what we do with our lives right now—are we engaged in our own higher creativity? Are we bringing our gift? Are we recognizing and supporting the gifts of others? Each one of us can work to develop interest—that little word that signifies so much: the capacity to be moved by what another person brings. And not only that, we can work to express that interest, and to give some token of support and appreciation, even if only a dollar. This action says “I am with you.” It is a true symbol of our spiritual brotherhood. At this moment, it’s perhaps perhaps still only a small priming of the pump, but it points to a future when the well runneth over.
These are the thoughts contained in a new initiative—a collective of visual, performing, and social artists who are building forms for recognition and support of creative work—7 Billion Crowns. This name is a hope, a challenge, a recognition that every head on this earth is fit to wear a crown if only we can find the way to lift that head and crown it. No easy task, but a good one.
Your head is fit for a crown. Will you lift your head? Your friend’s head is fit for a crown. Will you crown it?