What do the Shaker’s and Doug Englebart have in common?

A while back, I was sitting in the Shaker rocking chair I’ve owned for over 30 years along with some other Shaker furniture, boxes, a chest of drawers. The thought came to me that the Shakers somehow took common objects, a tin box, a bonnet, a house, a kitchen garden and turned them into works of uncommon grace.

I thought, someone who would lavish care on a chair, a basket, a clothes hanger or a wheelbarrow clearly believed that life was and is worthwhile. And the use of every material — iron, wood, silk, tin, wool, stone — reveals the same grace. And that got me thinking about truth, I believe the Shakers effort to create enduring beauty was not dependent on style but truth. Truth in Beauty is what lends things their immortality. These objects always outlive their creators. They are a gift their creators give to the world.

So I am into, let’s call him Bill Shaker because Bill was an optimist. An optimist believing life could be better by caring about what he made, working everyday with love. Bill had clear sight of the type of world he was trying to create.

Doug Englebart was also an optimist. Doug in case you don’t know sadly died last year, he was feted by the technology press because Doug invented the mouse, hypertext and video conferencing. Many described his technological prowess in pure engineering terms. Doug made this and Doug made that. But, like Bill Shaker, Doug was motivated by a vision. Doug’s vision was of a world where people could collaborate and share information to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems. So we should not get so hot under the collar about what Doug made, as much as what type of world he was trying to create. Yes he created great stuff that previously did not exist. But he had a compelling reason to do so. And of course there is the question where do you start when you are compelled to want to make the new?

So before getting excited about a new thing, new project, new business idea, maybe we could ask ourselves — what world are we trying to create? Are we just extracting stuff, money, information, data from people, or, are we doing something restorative, something beautiful?

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