The Bay Area sits at the westernmost edge of Western culture and the easternmost edge of Eastern culture, setting up a cultural edge condition that fosters creativity and innovation.
Culture and Creativity
Last time in the “Creativity and Bay Area Innovation” series, I talked about the influence of the Asian system of Feng Shui on the creativity and innovation of the Bay Area. Today I want to talk about culture, that is the outward subjective expression of different groups of people. Specifically, I want to the mosaic of cultures that make up the Bay Area, and see how they influence creativity and innovation.
In order to understand the significance of Bay Area culture, we need to go back to the origins of humankind some 200,000 to 150,000 years ago, which was marked by the birth of conscious, self-aware creativity, and see how culture grew and dispersed.
The Birth and Spread of Culture
It appears that modern humans, homo sapiens, first appeared in East Africa. Over time, they began migrating to other regions. The first trappings of civilization were set up in Mesopotamia along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and in Egypt along the Nile River. In time, humans went both east to the furthest reaches of Asia even over to North America, and west, to modern day Europe. It was in Europe that Western Culture developed and in the Far East where Eastern Culture developed.
Originally, the Bay Area was home to a large number of Native Americans from various tribes, who viewed the Bay and the hills that surrounded it as a sacred place. The first westerners to settle in the area were the Spanish, who set up missions all along the West Coast, followed by others from all parts of the world during the legendary Gold Rush of 1849. San Francisco and towns in surrounding areas sprung up at breakneck speed, with people from all over the world co-mingling, mostly around the hope of making a fortune. This period did not see humanity at its finest, but it did set the stage for more cultural integration over time.
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Just think of the teeming live and diversity of a coral reef sitting along the shoreline. It’s no different with human creativity in places of cultural diversity.
Here’s the rub for creativity and innovation…
Today, the Bay Area sits almost exactly on the opposite side of the world from the earliest expressions of civilization. It also sits at the westernmost edge of Western culture and the easternmost edge of Eastern culture, meaning it sits at the border between the two, setting up an edge condition that fosters creativity and innovation. Such cultural coral reefs can also be experienced in places such as New York City, Miami, Taiwan, Istanbul, and Tel Aviv.
Just think of the teeming live and diversity of a coral reef sitting along the shoreline. It’s no different with human creativity in places of cultural diversity: When different cultures with mindsets rub shoulders with one another, new creative ideas naturally come to the surface.
Although the San Francisco Bay Area is technically part of the Western world, it is really something different altogether: a cultural coral reef of sorts where the importance of the individual (Western thought) meet the importance of the group (Eastern thought), where Chinese Feng Shui meets American capitalism, where the spiritual insights of Steve Jobs as a young man visiting Asia meet the collaborative environment of the early Silicon Valley, where the Zen and Tibetan Buddhism meet the mind streams of beat poets Gary Snyder and Allen Ginsberg and author Jack Kerouac, all of which (and much, much, more) fosters the Bay Area’s particular style and grand outpouring of creativity and innovation.
Next time we’ll be examining the ground upon which the culture and the cultural cross-pollination takes place: The Bay Area’s dynamic, grinding geology. In the mean time, how has cultural diversity, or lack thereof, promoted creativity in you region or in your life. Please leave your stories in the comment section below.
About the “Creativity and Bay Area Innovation” series
The Bay Area is hands down the single most creative and innovative region in the United States, receiving a whopping 32 percent of all the venture capital invested in the United States.
The Bay Area is hands down the single most creative and innovative region in the United States.
Home to such major players as Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, Oracle, and numerous others, the Bay Area receives a whopping 32 percent of all the venture capital invested in the United States, according to the Bay Area Regional Center. It also has the second highest concentration of Fortune 500 companies next to New York.
All the money aside, the Bay Area has either begun or fostered the growth of such influential cultural movements as The Counter Culture Movement, Free Speech, Gay Rights, California Cuisine and the Local Foods Movement, the Internet, municipal recycling programs, Beat poetry and literature, psychedelic experimentation, and music festivals, such as Burning Man.
In this series, I will explore various ways of understanding the proliferation of creativity and innovation of the Bay Area, including Feng Shui, geology, culture, urban design, and history, hoping to shed a bit of light on a place I love so very much, hoping to honor some of the ways it has shaped my own creativity throughout my adult life.