In preparation for a trip to Florence, I have been doing some reading on the Renaissance. Not to try to give a history lesson, but the early to mid-1400’s was an exciting time. Prior to that the European world was pretty much in the mindset of doing things the same old way, like they always had done. To be fair, the 1300’s were pretty challenging, with a lot of wars and the bubonic plague. But then, mainly in Florence, Italy, some people started to think that maybe things– like poetry, writing, art, architecture, and engineering– could be improve on. Dante, for example, decided to write a giant poem in the vernacular Latin (a form that the common man, not just the aristocrats, could understand). Brunelleschi promised he could build his famous giant dome, even though no one had ever built a dome so large and at the time of his bid he had no idea he could do it. Ghiberti, Donatello, Botticelli, and Michelangelo took painting and sculpture to a whole new level of realism, emotion, and perspective. And then there’s Leonardo da Vinci, in my opinion, probably the smartest man to ever have lived. He was an artist, mathematician, engineer and architect.
What I really like about all of these Renaissance innovators is that they didn’t just decide to go out and do something different or off the wall; they started first by looking backward. They studied the ancient Arab writings, the Greek philosophers and sculptors. Much of the advances in banking and accounting made by the Medici’s had its roots in Arab mathematics. Renaissance sculpture sort of picks up where the Greeks left off. Also, most of the Renaissance rock stars, while pushing back against the Church and established religion, didn’t entirely reject it or try to burn it down. Instead, much of their art incorporated religious themes, was commissioned for display in churches, and/or financially supported by the Church.
So, I want to have a “Renaissance attitude.” I want to learn from and emulate the great thinkers and artists and other creatives of the past while, at the same time, strive to innovate and improve on those ideas. In this way, we can honor the past and acknowledge those upon whose shoulders we stand and, yet, also keep evolving toward the future.