I can’t put my finger on what centered my first thought this morning but I certainly know what it was. I want you all to know about my friend, Michael Richardson-Borne. I met Michael one late afternoon in Los Angeles as I was preparing for a presentation at a nameless, faceless convention center. Together with his friend (and now a friend of mine) Jeff Bellsey, he came to eke out a brief meeting sandwiched between my frenetic schedule. For some time before our meeting, Michael had been struggling to rationalize his impulse to convene a massive celebration of humanity’s potential – what he called ‘Summer of Heart’ – with the Hydra of monetary sponsorship. How, he asked, can you call forth transformation without giving up the soul of the impulse for the demands of funders? In a series of e-mails and phone calls, I offered little solace. Instead, I asked him to acknowledge his life’s abundance at the time he had the impulse to create ‘Summer of Heart’ and, rather than looking for the illusive ‘other’ resources, honor those that were in his path when the idea first coalesced. Rather than hearing a rejection for his vision, Michael set out on a journey that will be a vital part of our collective story. And his story is…, well, his. But what he’s stewarding is ours. And it’s that piece that draws my attention.
Michael has launched The Renaissance Project. This initiative invites the flirtatious floral impulses of the 60s into the gritty digital interconnected world. Hosting a venue for borderless voices to share creativity, art, and humanity, he has transformed his event-based artifact into a utility for global creative engagement. In short, Michael found that, in reflecting on his first impulse, his destiny in the moment of inspired animation was less about the muscle and more about the blood. After all, the heart, while getting entirely too much emotional attention, is important. But, its importance is manifest by delivering the vital oxygen and nutrients to the active cells throughout the body. In our effort to awaken humanity to its higher potential, our medieval impulse is to focus on the center of power – the contracting, driving muscle. However, the awakening now, as it was in the 14th century, was the decentralized exchanges that took place by those red blood cells that traveled to the furthest reaches and returned knowledge nutrients to the mind of Europe, then seated in Italy.
The lexicon of The Renaissance Project is a treasure-trove of wisdom. There are three terms that have ‘shown up’ in Michael’s project that I’d like to highlight for deeper consideration.
First, in his introductory video, Michael speaks of ‘Generation’. Now here’s a shock. According to the frenetic cultural anthropologists, a bizarre Moore’s Law acceleration has happened which has allegedly separated Michael and me by THREE generations. Oh, for the nostalgic Dark Ages days when generations were at least 20 to 30 years! This made me reflect on the birth of the term generation (no pun intended). “Generation” was first used in the transition from Old English to Middle English in the 13th century. Derived from the Latin generatio which meant ‘to bring forth’ or ‘to birth’, the notion that generation was a term to divide groups was introduced around the same time that our current view of humans being time-limited production assets was born. In the spirit of reclaiming Michael’s impulse, here’s one 60’s baby that is standing shoulder to shoulder with the age agnostic to call for the ‘bringing forth’ of a new story. Taken together with Joshua Gorman’s passionate efforts in Generation Waking Up, Todd Goldfarb’s Worldwide Tipping Point, Dori, Emily, Dustin… the extended family of the San Francisco guild, I see phenomenal potential rising from the erasure of time as a unit of division but rather as a utility of perspective and wisdom.
Second, I’m intrigued by the reclamation of the concept of Renaissance. There is no philosopher that more embodied the polymath of the Italian social movement than Pico della Mirandola, author of the courageous De hominis dignitate in 1486. Della Mirandola, unlike the artists who sold their creative souls for the patronage of the banking and clergy elites, had the audacity to stand before the establishment of the Church and boldly proclaim that both Mosaic and Christian teaching, along with Persian, Greek and ‘ancient’ theologies, all showed that humanity had the potential for inspired greatness. While I encourage all readers to taste the wisdom of this amazing mind and orator, I am struck, in particular, with the following passage in which an Italian philosopher tries to explain to conceited intellectuals of his time wisdom that defied their intellects:
“…the magic of Zoroaster is nothing else than that science of divine things in which the kings of the Persians had their sons educated to that they might learn to rule their commonwealth on the pattern of the commonwealth of the universe.”
For any of us from any period in time to actually find our higher purpose, we must realize that it is in the synthesis of wisdom that the seeds of cultural awakening germinate. Renaissance, then, is a companion to Generation. What Michael is offering is the birthing room for a reawakening – a remembering of that which humanity has known, understood, and for far too long, forgotten.
Third – and my personal favorite – he describes members of his community of artists and contributors as ‘Seers’. There is the witness aspect of this term – one who sees and documents – which is as vital to the Arab Spring and the OWS movement as it was to the Civil Rights marches, Kent State, and the etchings of the Martyrs Mirror. But, beneath the surface, a seer is far more than a witness. From Nostradamus to the Patriarch Joseph in Egypt, the ability to receive prophetic impulses and share them in a manner that can be seen and understood is a human trait that is sorely needed in our time. Ironically, in our post-modern science induced stupor, we can marvel at birds that change their flight patterns in advance of tsunami. We can accept that indigenous traditions can move in advance of volcanic eruptions by divining signals from nature. But we have become so digitally addicted that we’ve lost our powers of observation in the infinite orthogonality of the cosmosystem in which we live. A Seer is not an oddity. Rather a Seer is a soul unencumbered by consensus optics – someone or something that can perceive and communicate that to which others are willfully or culturally blinded.
I honor Michael for a host of reasons. First, he chose to Act. Emboldened by an impulse to follow his passion provisioned by the Abundance that was in his ecosystem, he rallied people, resources and passion around his vision and it became reality. Second, having been despondent after chasing financing for an artifact of an event, he found out that this phase of his journey needed HIM, not somebody else’s money. Few modern, young entrepreneurs have the capacity to untether their vision from the incipient paralysis associated with ‘funding’. Finally, as evidenced in the care with which he’s constructed the language and the framework for The Renaissance Project, he’s giving us all navigational cues so that we can find the song that sings us home…. (Thanks, Elizabeth and the elders for that one!).