Van Jones said it well: "If we're going to end this fiscal madness and start rebuilding America, we're going to have to get creative! We need a tsunami of music, film, poetry and art. The Culture of Possibility shows us how creativity can take our story back from Corporation Nation, tilting the culture towards justice, equity, and innovation. I urge you to read this book!"
We are in the midst of seismic cultural change. In the old paradigm, priorities are shaped by a mechanistic worldview that privileges whatever can be numbered, measured, and weighed; human beings are pressured to adapt to the terms set by their own creations. How we feel, how we connect, how we spend our time, how we make our way and come to know each other—these are all part of the scenery.
In the new paradigm, things are given their true value. People care passionately about how they and the things they value are depicted. They revive themselves after a long workday with music or dance, by making something beautiful for themselves or their loved ones, by expressing their deepest feelings in poetry or watching a film that never fails to comfort. In the new paradigm, it is understood that culture prefigures economics and politics; it molds markets; and it expresses and embodies the creativity and resilience that are the human species’ greatest strengths.
The bridge between paradigms is being built by artists and others who have learned to deploy artists’ cognitive, imaginative, empathic, and narrative skills. The bridge is made of the stories that the old paradigm can’t hear, the lives that it doesn’t count, the imagined future it can’t encompass. Using first-person stories, drawing on both history and headlines, embracing new knowledge from education, medicine, cognitive science, spirituality, politics, and other realms, The Culture of Possibility shows why, how, and where we can build a bridge to a sustainable future.
The Culture of Possibility: Art, Artists & The Future comprises two main sections with a prelude:
“Hidden in Plain Sight: Twenty-Eight Reasons to Pursue The Public Interest in Art” features 28 short chapters (most no more than a page or two) exploring emergent knowledge from many realms including commerce, anthropology, social science, medicine, spirituality, cognitive science, art, public policy, and others. Each chapter highlights stories, research, and emerging developments that point to a specific public interest in cultivating empathy, imagination, and community through artistic and cultural creativity.
“The World Is Upside Down” examines the culture of Corporation Nation in which human pleasures are channeled into optimal modes of consumption, each purchase triggering the need for more. People’s own cultural heritages have been devalued in favor of a commoditized American culture constructed of an idealized past and a product-placement future. A steady doom-beat tries to keep us feeling less than, lubricating the system with the perpetual hope that our malaise can be cured by the right acquisition.
This is juxtaposed with art and other forms of cultural expression: art is the practice of freedom. How art and artists are treated testifies to social well-being. And culture’s latent power to actualize well-being is enormous, because its contains the raw material of self-determination and connection that will allow us to outgrow Corporation Nation.
Using first-person stories, drawing on both history and headlines, this section calls for two types of action: greatly enlarging our understanding of art’s public purpose and importance and greatly reducing corporate domination. Although the official story may see the two as unrelated, the relationship is actually close: artists’ skills of social imagination, improvisation, empathy, and resourcefulness are needed to break Corporation Nation’s grip on our collective sense of the possible, overturning the inherited powerlessness that consigns the many to live as subjects of the few.