For what may be the cutest, passion-born-of-youth presentation to a Silicon Valley venture capital company on record, the teenage Rachel Sequoia, microphone in hand and with nothing short of bare feet below, spoke to an audience of serious-looking members of a VC group as she pitched them for $500,000 in order to bottle air from different parts of the world which would allow for a much more fluid cultural exchange and an increased flourishing of pleasure, health and good will across the globe.
The Wall Street Journal decided that this was sufficiently noteworthy to tweet it within hours of its gaining viral momentum on YouTube and the VC group in question is apparently taking the notion seriously enough to opening a round to its funders. Whether this is just the smoke and mirrors of the viral phenomenon or not does remains to be seen.
Whatever happens with this will be yet another story. But what we have now is a young girl who is passionate about health and the importance of air in health. She is excited about the importance of travel to foster cultural exchange and invites us to inhale the joy of the air of different cultures and geographical locations by bottling the air from different places on the earth. Ah the aroma of Madrid!
At the end of the day it's a delightfully airy idea that would cost $500,000 of initial capital.
We are brought back of course to French artist Marcel Du Champ's spoof on bottling and selling Parisian air back in the 1920's which essentially signified to him and his many fans what would be one more nail in the coffin of modern western "make-a-buck-or-franc-from-anything-based" thinking and civilization. In short, the idea of bottling air and selling it, no matter what the high-minded ideal or gimmick behind it, is hardly a new idea.
Mega-corporations sell water fluidly as though they really owned it, earth has been sold as though it also could be owned by legitimate right. But we've grown accustomed to the idea of owning the gifts of Earth despite the gut-wrenching wisdom which I feel we all have in our belly's -- clearly not our minds -- that, despite common assumptions and practices that have permeated our psyches for some time now, the Earth, as our Native peoples have always said, cannot be owned.
Chief Seattle's long-respected quote brings us back to a sense of balance and sanity that represents our true but completely ignored, relationship to the Earth: "The earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself."
As Du Champ's mockery of the idea of selling Parisian air (but done with a straight face to accent effect) and Chief Seattle's sober and straight-faced, woeful delivery about the Anglo's deep-seated confusion about the relationships between man and Nature, as our current world situation regarding Japan and beyond bears out, we are ultimately faced with the idea "Is everything a commodity for sale, even the air?"
So a sweet, hippie-like girl like Rachel Sequoia comes along and cooks up an idea that virally swirls around our social networks and minds that is in natural step with the further reach of our collective confusion that man owns and controls everything and well should! Any clever idea with money thrown behind should certainly see the light of day no matter what it really means, implies or costs to the larger whole.
Have these questions mattered much in a densely rich, material society such as ours? Unfortunately I think not. But Rachel's adorable presentation has gone far, seemingly unwittingly, in pointing out to us the disconnect we are all experiencing in our relationship to the Earth, to the material world and to each other. Apparently the recent 9.0 earthquake and resulting tsunami, along with the radiation threat to the rest of the world is still not enough for we humans to experience a sense of humility in the face of Mother Nature's unbridable power. It was just two weeks ago that saw the destruction of houses, buildings and towns with a few tsunami waves breaking the shore. Cars and buses were tossed around by the waves like a child's play toy. Thousands of lives were lost in minutes.
Time for us to listen, again to the wisdom of our elders and to the Native Peoples of this land and across the world when it comes to have, instead of a master-slave relationship, a healthy, respectful and joyous relationship with Nature and her elements of earth, fire, water and air, if not reverent.
I am grateful for this viral event catalyzed by Rachel Sequoia desire to share health and culture with others through the bottling and selling of air -- clearly not because I think that's a good idea but because it highlights how far we have gone astray in our thinking about what's ours individually and what is ours as the public commons, our gifted inheritance as sentient beings.