Sunday, January 25, 2009

After the Party

Last night after my friend Gregory van Maanen's opening at the Memorial Art Gallery, a bunch of friends hung out and talked about Obama and the road ahead. Everyone was excited about the future - which seems like a new emotion in itself after the disaster of the last 8 years. The degree to which we all have our hopes pinned on this guy was itself a topic of conversation with the inevitable question - is he god? Well, OK, that was the joke floating around the table. Hence the appearance of this blog post.

I am struck by the fact that there are periods of history when relatively enlightened leadership can produce a flourish of culture. Hellenistic Greece, Renaissance Italy, the great Persian empires, the Tang dynasty. Those moments in history when leadership understands the importance of learning and its relation to the wealth and health of the nation echo down centuries and serve as examples of the best humanity can achieve. After 8 years of leadership that seemed to have no curiosity, that was openly hostile to science when it did not support its ideology, that was blind to the link between learning and national well being, it seems reasonable to look at the change and wonder how we got so lucky.

The new administration has a lot on its plate and it will be a wild ride as we watch to see if their policies gain any traction in dealing with the profound difficulties facing the nation and the planet. But one thing is clear - science is once again being put in its proper place as a source of strength in the deepest sense of the word. If the words are backed up with actions, and if those actions are linked with a broader understanding of science in human culture, then perhaps we might witness something like the flourishing of creativity and imagination that has been seen in the past.

Its a lot to hope for but really, in the end, it will be what not just be politics but we all bring to the table. Golden age anyone?

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