So as the year 2012 rolled over, I began thinking about where we are and if there were a ‘New Age’ coming, where we might be headed.
I thought a lot about the digital age and what that might mean for humanity. I contemplated my own experiences with new technology. For whatever reason, I embraced this new technology right from the beginning. I know nothing at all about the mechanics of it but each new discovery of faster/easier/more versatile seems magical to me.
It is difficult when a New Age is upon humanity to see the bigger picture through the pain and chaos of the present, but I believe we are in just such a transition. When I look at the big picture I envision that we are on the leading edge of a new era of Renaissance. And just as with any other renaissance, times are tumultuous as people cling to their old ways and fight for their beliefs. But for the first time in recorded history, we have the benefit of hindsight and are able to study and compare events leading up to a renaissance, and recognize we may be perched on the precipice of one.
A Renaissance by its very definition is a revival or rebirth, especially of culture, art, literature, learning and other intellectual pursuits. Right or wrong, the renaissance I see is allowing humanity to express ourselves in ways heretofore never seen, at least in recorded history – and without the gatekeepers of the past. Even in many countries which still control what their citizens are ‘allowed’ to do, we are able to use our creative juices to post videos to such places as YouTube which can be seen instantly around the world - videos as diverse as animated mini-movies, artists who become instant superstars, and pictures of brutality by authorities taken on smart phones. We are maintaining relationships with our friend and family however far removed they may be, through social media such as Facebook, with photos and discussions. We make new friends in far off places and discover that humans the world over are not so different from one other. We tweet and retweet our successes and our failures and perhaps most importantly, we gain knowledge we could never have learned in a lifetime, even a decade or two ago. This renaissance will be vastly different from those of the past. It will not be contained to a small area of the cultured world as others have. This renaissance, for the very first time in recorded history, will affect the entire planet. Though assuredly to different degrees, every human will have a chance to be involved in some way.
As mentioned, such a renaissance will not come without cost. 2011 saw several upheavals. The ‘Arab Spring’, sometimes called the ‘Arab Awakening’ brought a wave of revolutions that ousted such despots as the relatively benign Ben Ali of
Tunisia, Mubarek in Egypt and the brutal regime of Muammar Gaddafi. Several other Arab countries experienced uprisings and protests. In many cases, social media was used to get the word out. The hated terrorist Bin Laden was found and killed. Perhaps most significantly, the US officially ended the war in Iraq at the end of the year. Social media played a part in several of these upheavals as
more and more of humanity demanded freedoms long suppressed.
Though I would posit this to be a Renaissance of expansion of invention and creativity as all others have been, this one is different. Where in the past we had benefactors who would feed us while we struggled to express ourselves through art, music, or literature, we now have the freedom and tools to create and co-create ad infinitum. But with freedom comes responsibility. Though connected reasonably easily to the other seven billion or so individuals on the planet, we often feel we are on our own, adrift in a sea of change so profound no one seems able to lead the way. But through it all, we are inspired to create: storytelling, animated and ‘live’ video films, digital art, poetry, dance, literature, music, information, intellectual pursuits, all expressed easily and instantly through the power of the digital world. New and imaginative devices are created every day that illuminate this magic to us as if from thin air.
This will not come easily. We will need to have courage and faith – and perhaps a sense of wonder at Life itself. We need the wonder and boldness of children and young adults, to be sure. But most of all we may need the kind of wonder and tenacity which makes more mature folks, with their acquired wisdom, poised to lead the way…