In a section called, "Love as a Renewable Building Material," Shirky relates the story of a Shinto shrine in Japan that is over 13 centuries old but can't get certified as an historical structure by UNESCO, the UN cultural agency responsible for such certification. It seems that the structure is wooden, thereby not "permanent." But the Ise Shrine Imbe monks do an interesting thing: Once a generation they tear down the original structure and rebuild its exact duplicate at an adjacent site. They have accomplished this "rebuild" sixty-one times in a row, according to Shirky. He muses, "A wrecked castle that has stood unused for hundreds of years makes the cut; a shrine that is rebuilt once a generation for a thousand years doesn't."
He goes on to postulate that:
- Wikipedia is a Shinto shrine; it exists not as an edifice but as an act of love. Like the Ise Shriine, Wikipedia exists because enough people love it and, more important, love one another in its context. This does not mean that the people constructing it always agree, but loving someone doesn't preclude arguing with them (as your own experience will doubtless confirm). What love does for Wikipedia is provide the motivation both for improvement and for defense...We don't often talk about love when trying to describe the public world, because love seems too squishy and too private. What has happened, though, and what is still happening in our historical moment, is that love has become a lot less squishy and a lot less private. Love has a half-life, too, as well as a radius, and we're used to both of those being small. We can affect the people we love, but the longevity and social distance of love are both constrained. Or were constrained--now we can do things for strangers who do things for us, and a low enough cost to make that kind of behavior attractive, and those effects can last well beyond our original contribution. Our social tools are turning love into a renewable building material. When people care enough, they can come together and accomplish things of a scope and longevity that were previously impossible; they can do big things for love."