January 22, 2017 (Sunday)

by Yule Heibel on January 21, 2018

Not in my usual pose, sitting at a desk to write, but rather, Edith Wharton-style, propped up in bed, in the hotel room. It’s already 8:40am, we have to be back at the conference by 10:00, also have to check out by 10:00. The conference (Beyond Tomorrow 2: Arts, Culture, Community & the Future of Civilization – FDR Foundation), so far, has been an utter surprise in that it is really good. I wasn’t really expecting anything – had no idea what to expect. But from the opening remarks (lecture) by Michael Weishan, through to yesterday’s closing talk by Ruben Navarette, followed by a concert (brief), it was outstanding.

Weishan talked about creativity, focusing on Henry Wallace, a Republican chosen by Franklin Delano Roosevelt to be his Vice President. Extremely interesting family background, including a childhood friendship with the adult (and learned) Washington Carver. Creativity in terms of bringing innovation to farming practices, Depression-era debt relief, responding to the Depression, etc. Weishan’s talk was entitled, “FDR, Henry Wallace, and How They Solved America’s First Ecological Crisis: The Dustbowl.”

After Weishan (whose talk was under “Past Inspiration”), we heard Mark Plotkin, “Maps, Magic and Medicine in the Amazonian Rainforest” (s.v. “Present Inspiration”). Actually a lot of history there, too. Following Plotkin, there was a panel discussion about creativity, which got a bit too fuzzy too fast: Marisa Silver (author); Margarita Quihuis (Stanford University design affiliate working on peace); Benjamin Juárez Echenique (music, conductor); Marcela Davison Aviles (Los Angeles, filmmaker, etc.). The theme was “Creating Creativity.” It was held at Boylston Hall.

Then for lunch we went to Adams House. (The cafeteria food was awful, but the setting was grand in a weird Harry Potter way – I had only been there one other time when Noel Ignatiev invited me to lunch during his tenure as Adams House’s resident tutor.)

After lunch W. and I did a creativity workshop with Susan Israel (also at Adams House). She had been at the Women’s March, which I’m sure had that morning drained many attendees from the conference – and continued to do so throughout the day. Most of the people at the conference were uniformly funereal about the election, with some – the elderly liberals in the crowd – being downright silly in a combative, impotent kind of way. (The younger ones who felt like this presumably were at the march?)

One older (and apparently well-off, well-dressed, well-coiffed) woman openly wished to hasten Trump’s death (“bullet through the head”-type stuff), to which I said that then we’d have Pence, which would be worse. People are so ridiculous in their entitlement. Here’s this old couple, closing on 80 it seemed, she probably a Radcliffe gal from way back in the day, married to her old man (naturally, himself a Harvard man), expensively turned out, enjoying their select Ivy League association, benefiting at every turn from the system, …and now that the system has spat out someone they despise, they’re stamping their well-shod, indignant little feet. It’s something to behold. Several times while sitting behind this woman (who was vociferous, more so than her generally assenting but more stoically silent husband), I had to control my instinct to reach over to throttle her.

In the afternoon Frank O’Keefe spoke at length (going over) as did Diego Canales (very brief) about CO2 harvesting. They have a company called Infinitree. Very interesting.

Then the closing address by Ruben Navarette, titled (generally), “What Our Youth Needs to Know.” But in the Q&A he really lit into the media, which he blamed for Trump’s rise to power, and into the Democrats, whom he blamed for deep-sixing Bernie Sanders and for running a shitty, can’t-win candidate (Hillary Clinton). It was electric. I went up to the podium after and congratulated him (most of the attendees were scurrying away in shock and embarrassment). Can’t be easy to speak truth to power to this (Harvard) crowd.

To close, there was a lovely concert by a trio (flute, violin, piano), a composition called “Typhoon Days” by Sam Wu (Adams House student).

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