Renaissance Attitude

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.

Accepting Loss

Me just before being pickpocketed

I was on vacation in Florence, Italy. I was relaxed. I was having a good time, taking in the sights, taking photos, posting to my Instagram. So I had my smartphone handy in the side pocket of my purse, ready to pull it out upon spying a good photo opportunity. The Point Vecchio Bridge, lined with jewelry shops, was busy and crowded. Vendors were hawking their wares, street performers were vying for attention, people were packed in close. And then I went to reach for my phone and realized it wasn’t there. I checked my pockets, searched my purse. Gone. In the press of the crowd, with all the distractions, someone had lifted my iPhone.

When I got back to my computer, I performed the “Find My” operation. The phone had been on the bridge at the time I had crossed it and then gone offline. The thief had cleverly immediately turned the phone off so it could not be tracked. Fortunately, I had it locked with a passcode. I very sadly gave the command to have all data on the phone erased.

It is shocking to realize how much we have come to rely on our smartphones. I felt lost, untethered. I felt I had lost an appendage. How would I take photos? Oh, yeah, I also have a Nikon camera. How would I check my email? I have an iPad and laptop. What about my past photos? They are in the cloud. What about all the notes and other information I keep on my phone? Well, those are lost. I will have to stretch my memory and recall. So, I came to realize that, in reality, I hadn’t lost much more than my physical phone. Because I need a new SIM card from my U.S. carrier, I wouldn’t be able to get a new phone until I returned to the U.S., but I would be able to replace the phone and keep the same number.

However, I still felt a little traumatized. First of all, I was pretty angry with myself. I know better than to leave my personal belongings exposed when in crowds. I think of myself as having pretty good situational awareness, but I had no clue when my phone was stolen. Someone was that close to me and had their hand inside my purse and I had no idea. I felt very stupid. I also felt violated. What right does anyone have to take my property? Also, I had to face the next ten days phone-less. How was that possible? What would I do? How would I function? My husband had three phone with him, so we managed.

But this experience made me think — am I too attached to material things? The loss of this one material thing really upset me. Some people have catastrophes like fires or floods or war that cause them to lose all their material goods. That is unimaginable to me. But, somehow, those people manage to go on. They rebuild their lives. They say these events made them realize that what was really important was that they and their family members were alive. And yet, I was pretty upset to lose one material item. After thinking about it, I chose to take stock of all the blessings I have (I had the means to vacation in Italy, for starters) and of the things in life that really matter — my health, my faith, my relationships with family and friends. No thief or disaster can ever take those things away from me.