Artslink: The Possibility of the Next Renaissance

By Jason Young on April 09, 2020 from A&E Blog via

I am hopeful that history could repeat itself. 
Between the 14th and the 15th centuries, a series of events, disasters really, brought Europe to a near complete halt. During that time the continent experienced the Great Famine, a decline in the power and prestige of the Roman Catholic Church, the 100 Years War, and the Black Death. These major crises led to demographic and economic collapse, political instabilities, religious upheavals, and radical changes in all areas of European society. Historians refer to this as the Crisis of the Late Middle Ages. 
I am not a scholar, and it is certainly not my intention to lecture y’all on Europe from hundreds of years ago; but maybe we can draw comparisons from then to now. The effects of climate change, lack of faith in organized religion, a world full of countries constantly at odds with one another, and global illnesses were the disasters of that time and have now become the crises of this time.  
So, where is the hope? If we spend all of our time thinking about those doomy and gloomy years in Europe, we don’t find much to feel optimistic about; however, I find my hope in what happened next. These dark years led to a very exciting period of transition between the conclusion of the middle ages and the modern era: The Renaissance. 
It started in Italy, a country that had been particularly badly hit by the plague. Historians speculate that the resulting familiarity with death caused the great thinkers to dwell more on their lives on Earth as a preparation for the afterlife. The intellectual basis of the Renaissance was humanism, which asserted that the genius of man was the unique and extraordinary ability of the human mind and the importance of transcending to the afterlife with a perfect mind and body, which could only be obtained through education. 
This new thinking manifested in art, architecture, philosophy, literature, music, science and technology, politics, religion, and most other aspects of intellect. The population decrease led to an increase in value of the working class, and those within the upper class, who remained wealthy, supported this new way of thinking, of studying, and of creating art. For a hundred years an entire continent invested in the human mind and thought. They created and consumed beauty, designed and built stunning buildings, freely shared knowledge, wrote and read great books, composed, experimented and invented, debated ideas, prayed, and provided workers with more compensation and increased freedom. 
Could this be what is next for us? Absolutely. In some ways it has already started. 
We are quickly learning what is essential and what isn’t. Hopefully our sensibility will lead us to a new understanding of the value of all people and their contributions to our society and our economy. Our educators, from kindergarten teachers through university professors, have taken on the monumental task of immediately transferring their entire profession to a brand new delivery system. 
The arts have moved to the forefront as people consume books, television, movies, and streaming theatre and music in order to escape the pain and the pressure of this temporary normal. There is something quite beautiful about artists offering up their work for all people to consume via platforms like Facebook and asking people to support them within their means. It’s a far cry from concert and theatre tickets that price many people out of the experience. 
The outdoors have become a sanctuary for so many people who are finding serenity and exercise among our natural beauty. I am hopeful these individuals who are just discovering our parks are now realizing the importance of our public spaces and creative placemaking. 
It is certainly not a guarantee, but we have the chance to emerge from our current pandemic into a brand new renaissance. In order to do that, in order to offer ourselves the possibility of great change, we have to question the way we currently live, and more importantly the way we currently think. The Renaissance thinkers had the brains of scientists and the sensibility of poets. May we all look at this current situation as an opportunity to appreciate all that we have, to examine all that we do, and to dream about all that could be. 

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