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Journey to the Golden Age
Golden ages leave behind the undying fame of their heroes. It is those who engage them as peers that become capable of initiating a new one.
This past week saw two articles by longtime Palladium Correspondent Avetis Muradyan. The first is an interview with the accomplished architect Bill Bensley from his home in Bangkok. The second is about how great men create golden ages, and the relationship these men have with those that inspired them.
Bensley’s career as an architect began with a realization after he finished his postgrad at Harvard in 1984. He could landscape parking lots for the rest of his life, or he could get out of the country. Bensley chose to head west until he reached Bali. There, he was able to “able to draw something and then have 600 guys carve it out of stone.” It put him on the path to becoming one of the most recognized names in architecture across Asia.
Through extensive collaborations with colleagues like his mentor, Lek Mathar Bunnag, Bensley mastered his craft by rigorously developing his skills and becoming fluent in interaction with local cultures. He eventually matured into a style characterized by a fidelity to vernacular architectural forms and a vital, maximalist opulence. Check out the rest of his interview here to learn Bensley’s view on mentorship, harmonizing the built environment with the natural one, and the art of hospitality.
Mastery is a strange thing. The essential rules of mentorship, initiative, and high standards are well known, but greatness remains a fundamental outlier even among capable people. This isn’t just the case among individuals, but cultures as well. Avi’s article Journey to the Golden Age looks at the common denominator between individuals whose great deeds create great empires.
What stands out is that the founders and conquerors who create golden ages are operating on a completely different timescale than the rest of us. Their accomplishments are driven by comparing themselves to world-historical heroes. Alexander imitated Achilles, Caesar imitated Alexander, and Napoleon imitated Caesar.
There is a sense that all golden ages are subspecie aeternitatis. In all places and times, the leaders of societies in ascendance have been particularly prone to seeing themselves as on the same footing as the great periods of the past. To be able to empathize with the various high points of the past, you have to be animated by the same vital energy as those men and societies and see yourself as the same kind of person.
How does this happen on the level of culture? The answer is that there is an intensive cultivating process on the societal level that can take centuries. The production of Hernando Cortez and Isabella of Spain was preceded by the centuries-long Reconquista, which primed the Spanish people for outward expansion. The appearance of someone like Napoleon was preceded by European society’s mania for everything having to do with antiquity, and this historicist impulse helped clarify what was possible in this world for Napoleon. But while the scholars “saw mere distance and the inexorable march of time in these ruins,” Avi writes, “Napoleon found peers, friends, and competitors in them.” Anyone with an eye to building an empire for the future will have to keep one eye on the past, if only to learn the secrets of how it was done.
This article is an important articulation of the Palladium worldview. You can read the rest of it here.
New York City Meetup
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In December of last year, Palladium Magazine published “Are Farm Antibiotics Destroying Our Health?” by correspondent David Oks. During the writing of that article, we produced a short documentary that is now available to view. We hope you enjoy!
Here’s what’s been on the front page lately:
“A Pride in the Craft” with Bill Bensley and Avetis Muradyan. Bill Bensley looks back on decades of perfecting his maximalist design philosophy in Asia. He discusses his approach to cultural interpretation, ecological synthesis, and the pursuit of artistic excellence.
Journey to the Golden Age by Avetis Muradyan. Golden ages leave behind the undying fame of their heroes. It is those who engage them as peers that become capable of initiating a new one.
Fertility Collapse Demands New Cultures by Simone and Malcolm Collins. Demographic collapse is now inevitable in most countries. Families that optimize for child-rearing now will build the cultures of the future.
The Golden Age of Aerospace by Brian Balkus. Postwar America’s aerospace industry combined captured German personnel with manufacturing excellence to accomplish the most incredible engineering feats in history. But process knowledge can be easily lost.
A School of Strength and Character by Tanner Greer. Nineteenth-century Americans stunned outsiders with their capacity for self-organizing. By cultivating the virtues of public usefulness, procedural formality, and agentic hierarchy, they created a powerful set of norms for building institutions.
That’s all for now.