How Renaissance Humans Can Save the World

A dark memory has been burned into my brain since fourth grade. One cold November day, one of our classmates came rushing into our schoolroom,

“Kenny has been shot.”

The whole class was completely confused that my trumpet-playing friend Kenny could have been shot.

The shrieking student yelled: “NO, President Kennedy has been shot.”

We were all stunned and frightened.

It was a scary time.

The pace of change and depth of uncertainty was unprecedented. We were in a Cold War involving two aggressive countries threatening our survival, the Soviet Union and Communist China. The constant posturing and saber rattling were tough on the nerves of us young ones who were still getting used to being in human bodies.

The global conflict was making us fear the end of the world.

So did the regular classroom drills of nuclear attack responses which were being carried out in American schools everywhere. Frightened 6–12 year olds raced to their school basements when the warning siren came on. Relief came when a teacher in charge would say, “All is clear. Go back to your classrooms”.

That same year a war in Vietnam was beginning to steal hundreds of thousands of young men and women out of their ordinary lives and dropping them in a very dangerous land. Thousands more were fleeing America as the only choice to forced military service.

It was a very scary time.

Yet the winds of progressive change were also blowing and monumental changes were afoot.

That same year the Beatles first appeared on national television in the US.

The Voting Rights Act was passed so the idea that African-Americans in this country could vote freely finally became law.

And I was one of many young children who went house to house on Halloween raising money for Unicef and its noble work fighting hunger and poverty in Africa.

It was also an amazing time.

Looking back now, it’s clear that a cultural revolution — a Renaissance — was being birthed in those tumultuous days of the 60s and 70s. In this global landscape of fear and conflict was also emerging new music, theater, poetry and art coming from the inner cities and theaters and the disenfranchised communities, even the suburbs.

Teenagers and young adults were blending gospel, rock, jazz, beatnik, Bohemian, hippie, and traditional styles.

World-changing artists, poets and writers were testing boundaries, tasting freedom and getting praise — and a stage — like never before.

While our social structures lurched, wheezed, panted and became broken under the dizzying speed of change, more and more of my generation were embracing love, peace, truth, goodness and cooperation. We were tasting a world that was growing increasingly connected; where we could actually witness ourselves from space as a whole planetary civilization for the first time.

Humanity was uniting through our shared joys and through our shared suffering.

We were also hearing exotic spiritual concepts and practices that were filtering over to us from the East. Hindu, Buddhist, and Taoist principles at first seemed strange and definitely counter-cultural, but soon they became accepted and then embraced as common-sense and life-saving.

Before long it seemed that this “oneness-everything-is-connected thing” that the Beatles (and the suddenly-in-vogue swamis and yogis) had been talking about, wasn’t just a trendy spiritual concept. It was a clear hard fact of this planet’s existence, provable through quantum science.

There was a growing sense that a new age for humanity was dawning.

Looks like a commune to me. Actually it was me (far right) and my best friend Chris Bogan (far left) visiting high school friends in Vermont, having cut short a four week hike on the Appalachian Trail when a massive rainstorm proved how wimpy we actually were.

But as beautiful as the notions of Universal peace and love were, it was also a period in which many of us hadn’t yet learned to become all that grounded. We were largely unformed emotionally and spiritually. We were essentially still kids, just trying to deal with a helluva lot of tragedy and craziness on a staggering global scale.

We loved the parties, the free love and the dreams of a better world. Who wouldn’t? These new ideals were inspiring — and exciting — and they promised a new world that would honor everyone. But in truth, most of us were still immature as global citizens. It was the 70s. We relied on paperback encyclopedias and newspapers to learn about the world because the internet and global mass media didn’t yet exist .

Then, one after another the towering heroes of our revolution were either killed, suppressed, or died a tragic death — after President Kennedy then it was his brother Bobby, Dr Martin Luther King, Jr, Malcolm X, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and so many others.

Our spirits suffered.

Our hearts ached.

We kept trying to live the new vision, but it was hard.

No, let me rephrase that. It was immensely hard for many of us to sustain all the excitement, aspiration and connectedness that the music, the meditation and the expanded consciousness had begun to deliver.

As disillusioned idealists, many of us were all too aware of the vast array of problems that could assure humanity’s demise — even if all the nuclear weapons we had learned to fear in the 60s could be put up in mothballs — and so we became numb along the way.

I was caught up in much of the anti-war protesting during the 60s, as I watched two of my brothers go off to an unpopular war, both to return wounded and broken.

Others of us grew depressed, fearing the old world was just too strong to allow this new spirit to truly burst forth and allow the next evolution of humanity to thrive.

Some dropped out completely to try to live a vision cut off from society’s contradictions, untruths, unfairness, violence, and inequity.

Others of us just went to work.

And started families.

We resigned ourselves to the narrow focus of our community, our company, our nation or our religion; in an effort to anesthetize ourselves to the fact that as a species, our perpetually militant behavior was leading us increasingly on a path of mutually assured self-destruction.

We tried to keep our ideals alive, but just keeping the money coming in was tough enough. We needed to support a growing family, go to college, save for retirement, let alone deal with the societal pressure to have upward mobility. We slowly began to forget about real happiness and fulfillment. That might happen once we made it to retirement. If we could just stay out of a wheelchair or a nursing home.

We grew tired.

Really tired.

Yet some of us never fully lost the vision.

We always knew, deep in our hearts, that one day we would need to step out of the box we’d inadvertently trapped ourselves in and “become the change we wish to see in the world”. So, we continued in earnest on our spiritual paths. Some explored personal development while others dabbled in alternative lifestyles. Whatever your chosen flavor, we all shared in the knowledge that there was infinitely more potential locked inside our hearts, minds, and bodies than we could even begin to comprehend.

And then the world started becoming radically more connected.

Satellite technology enabled media to take us live to war zones and hostage situations; to bombings and to the center of horrific storms and natural disasters. Our increased awareness of the damage we were doing to our environment and to ourselves ensured life became less and less dreamy and much more immediate and real.

Technology’s influence on us, as well as its capacity to revolutionize our lives, was picking up speed. It began slowly at first, then more profoundly, then more excitingly, and eventually, also frighteningly.

How we communicated, how we learned, how we shared, how we connected, how we spent our “free time” — it all changed.

Whatever world we thought we were foreseeing in those halcyon days of the 60s and 70s, trust me, it’s a lot different.

With the internet now giving us 24/7 visibility of our world, we are more aware than ever that we are facing an array of civilization-threatening problems never before seen in human history: war, poverty, climate change, deforestation, violent computer video games……. I won’t bother to list them all — we know the usual suspects well enough.

But what if there was a way to avert our seemingly inevitable planetary breakdown?

What if us kids of the 60s and the 70s had it almost right with the values that we stood for; values like: Joy, Freedom, Creativity, Connection and Truth? What if we just lacked the mature heart, the advanced technology, the compassion, and the global reach to really make it stick?

What if the time has come for a next generation, 21st century, real-life Renaissance?

da Vinci spoke the truth!

After all, the Renaissance catapulted civilization beyond the Dark Ages. Isn’t it possible a new generation Renaissance could do the same for our dark time?

The term Renaissance man came about in the early 20th century to describe someone who is not only skilled in business, but has also embraced the artistic side of life and achieved success and influence broadly. Da Vinci was perhaps the first Renaissance man that we know of in the West. Skilled in art, design, biology, as well as technology creation, his conception of human flight was about four hundred years ahead of its time. His sculptures and paintings are timeless and part of this planet’s artistic treasures.

The Renaissance became a cultural revolution that spawned the greatest changes in consciousness to that point in history. The Renaissance was powerful because of its unique merging of business and art. Wealthy families in Florence, Italy, and across the continent, became patrons of art that otherwise would have never survived.
It was not only the visual arts that benefited, though the preoccupation with building enormous cathedrals continued to honor the religious hegemony of its time.
All the arts — music, dance, poetry, literature — began to flourish and it was merchants who recognized that this needed to happen for civilization to move out of the dark ages and into a new age of enlightenment and progress.

It has become clear that if we are to solve the civilization-threatening problems we now face, it will take something far more creative and embracing than the current sources of conflict and division. Politics, religion, national identity, gender and sexual preference, and economic class will never unify the world. But perhaps, like for our ancestors several hundreds of years ago, the solution lies in a shared respect and reverence for beauty. As individuals we can put aside our political, theological or ideological differences in the face of a disaster that needs our care, or in the presence of a magnificent sunset that takes our breath away, or while watching a young musical prodigy play like a virtuouso 30 years older. It is in the shared appreciation of beauty as expressed in music, art, dance, poetry, creative expression of any type, that we can come together as a humanity. It is love that can unite us.

So where does technology fit in this vision?

You don’t have to be a Luddite to recognize the dangers of technology’s potential grip on our humanity. But you would also need to have been in deep slumber for several decades to ignore the breathtaking promise of technology to solve some of humanity’s most civilization-threatening crises.

Technology is clearly already playing a central role in the monumental changes that humanity is going through. In 1984 I got my first Mac. I felt like a schoolboy with a mad crush on the cute cheerleader. I thought Apple was the coolest, most creative company ever.

When I look at how much technology is capable of changing the world today, it’s staggering. I often think about:

* The gratitude I feel for the thousands of friends I have made in dozens of countries around the world, simply because social networks like Facebook exist;

* The power of technology to create community instantaneously, to share inspiration, art, music, ideas across borders;

* The exponential power of disruptive new technologies that could put to rest ancient problems of hunger, power, water, and conflict;

* The transformative power of technology to instantly change our mood and our awareness through a touching or hilarious video, a rockin’ song, or a blog so honest and raw that we are moved to insight, to tears, or to action.

More so than for any generation that has come before us, we now have the technology at our finger tips to quite literally change the world.
But we must also ensure that our technology is used as a tool rather than relied upon as the sole Source of our happiness. Technology alone will never get us to the promised land.

Technology needs heart, and it needs art.

That’s why it has become time to explore how to harmoniously marry the breathtaking promise of technology with a sacred and exuberant love of the arts.

We now have an opportunity never before seen on this planet, to reignite the original Renaissance spirit in how we consciously choose to engage and share our creativity to solve the truly daunting crises of the 21st century. We have an opportunity — actually I believe it is our duty — to connect heart to heart as people, as global citizens, as lovers of joy, connection, freedom and truth no matter how much our differences might be driving to separate us.

There is a growing sense that in an era in which a non-politician billionaire and reality TV star has made his way from laughing stock to the Presidency, it will take all the combined polwer of technology and the human heart to create a wave of positivity and humanity to counteract the dark negativity of the campaign’s pronouncements. More than ever, it will take powerful voices speaking the truth as they see it to help sustain this movement for humanity.

And while creativity is a central tenet of this new Renaissance meme, becoming what I call a Renaissance Human isn’t solely about embracing your creative side. It’s about exploring the fullness of our potential as humans — to let ourselves fly into artistic realms especially if our nature was to be a geek, a number-cruncher, or a manager of things.

It’s also about exploring the fullness of being grounded in the world if our nature is to fly off into artistic dreams without any hope of putting food on the table or living in a place above squalor.

Interesting that this year’s theme at Burning Man was “Da Vinci’s Workshop”, honoring the intersection between art and commerce that emerged during that amazing period.

Thousands of people from all genders, nationalities, generations, and talent sets are already becoming Renaissance Humans. They are rejecting limitations of previous generations and sensing that it is in the integration of our fullest creative potential as a species along with the humane use of technology that humanity can be on the verge of the greatest breakthroughs in the history of this planet.

Today’s renaissance humans are the embodiment of a new profound appreciation of the magnificent potential of human consciousness to create a new world, rising like a phoenix out of a dying world created — unwittingly — by our ancestors. They represent a revolution that is bringing technology, creativity, and heart together in the name of our deepest soul fulfillment and the next evolution of humanity and of our planet.

Whatever generation you are part of, whatever nation you call home, whatever your gender identification, whatever makes your heart sing… we are all in this together. It only took a thousand people to launch the last Renaissance…….are you ready to be part of the next one?

enjoying an afternoon stroll in Marin County just north of San Francisco. T-shirt courtesy of Abraham Heisler’s film, The Typist.

Bruce Cryer has been called a renaissance man for his multi-faceted career, starting as an actor/singer/dancer on the New York stage, moving into publishing, biotech, health and wellness, as a manager, executive, author, blogger, CEO, consultant, and mentor. A series of life-threatening conditions between 2009–2011 propelled him to recreate his life in all its delightful facets. He is now co-CEO of the WholeLife Network, co-founder of his passion project, What Makes Your Heart Sing, and founder/CEO of the Vybrato Group, a unique network of artists and businesspeople dedicated to raising the vibration of the planet. He also loves to write and photograph nature in his adopted home, the San Francisco Bay Area.