I feel like we live at an interesting time. The world is changing rapidly, as society evolves, and each new generation grows up with different technology, different conditions, and naturally a significantly different worldview than the last one. Only fifty years ago, we lived in a world where most people lived out their lives in the same location, often staying with the same company through the entirety of their career. Now, we are mobile, increasingly living in different countries than our birth, and most honest career advice advocates shifting jobs after several years.
It also feels like our society is at somewhat of a crossroads. People are considering ideas now that would have never seen the light of day twenty years ago, and we are trending in ways that often conflict with one another simultaneously. I see a society that is more “globalized” than ever. But, Regionalism and Nationalism is on the rise. I read blogs and see movies that emphasize the importance of maintaining our individual identities the same day I observe conformist pressures being asserted on one another by people around me. I see an unchecked adherence to materialism as I hear stories of people going “minimalist”.
In all of this, we are trying to figure out who we are, both individually and collectively. What do we stand for? What are our values? Priorities? How should we relate to one another? And, in what way should we judge one another based on their actions?
This blog, and the writing that is to come, represents my feeble attempt to have some level of influence regarding what direction our society takes in the coming years and decades. I call It The New Renaissance, as the term represents the direction I believe our society needs to take in order to maximize the potential and enjoyment of the human experience in the 21st Century.
As somebody who truly embodies the methods of thought I plan to advocate in this blog, I understand that this is an oversimplification, based on a historical period that may possibly be romanticized or miss-characterized. However, regardless of whether or not the historical period really was what some believe it was to be, the characterization of it represents the direction our society needs to head.
Keep in mind, I am not a historian. In fact, I do not know enough facts and details to be considered a “history buff”. I am not really interested in the details. I am more concerned with the concepts and their implications for our current and future lives.
A brief, and very “mainstream” overview of Western History goes as follows.
The Roman Empire collapsed on the weight of its own empire in the 5th Century. The period that followed was referred to as the “Dark Ages”. This time period was characterized by famine, plague, illiteracy, feudalism, and all sorts of other awful things. Most importantly, there was little advancement in technology or human knowledge. Some say we even regressed (for example, Aristotle approximated the radius of the Earth in the 4th Century B.C., but there is later talk of a flat earth).
Then, a series of crusades to reconquer the holy land brought back knowledge from other parts of the world. This was mainly knowledge about mathematics, writing, and things we would nowadays refer to as “the basics”. It brought us into what is referred to as the “High Middle Ages”, the time of Robinhood, King Author, and the like. Things finally started to slowly get better as Medieval traders (Burghers) gradually brought down the Feudalist system (to be replaced by a mixture of Capitalism and Mercantilism, but we’ll let Adam Smith deal with that six centuries later).
It is hard to explain why (many speculate happenstance, who survived the Black Plague, etc.), but the 14th Century brought about changes to the West, starting in Italy. There was a renewed interest in knowledge, not only the left-brained knowledge of mathematics and science and such, but also the right-brained creative knowledge that created some of the greatest artworks of all time. It was the time of Galileo discovering how to measure longitude so that we could go out and explore the rest of the world even more effectively. It was also the time of sculptures and artworks like the Sistine Chapel.
It was referred to as the “Renaissance” because accompanied with it was a renewed interest in ideas and concepts of the past, particularly from ancient Rome and Greece. The scholars of the time did not simply recreate the Roman Empire (although in the 20th Century Benito Mussolini would sincerely try to). Trying to simply recreate the past is a fallacy. Instead, they combined ideas from the past with some new ones to create a new society, better than the one before. As an American who believes one should have an understanding of our past in order to have a respectable opinion about our current state of affairs, I recognize that our founders cited works from these ancient societies (Greece and Rome) when creating the form of Government we currently have.
The trends I observe in our society today have echoes of both a new Renaissance and a new Dark Age.
I see the spirit of the Renaissance in conversations around me, where, unlike fifty year ago, people talk about what they need to do to achieve “fulfillment”, or significance. I see it in the blogosphere, in books and sometimes even on social media, where people shun the singular pursuit of money and status in favor of rewarding experiences such as helping others through emotionally tough situations, traveling to new places or pursuing new ideas. When I am in a community of people willing to consider new ideas, new theories, and new ways to construct life and society I feel it.
But, I also see some disturbing trends. Every day I see people stare at their phones, instead of interacting with one another. Additionally, it event feels like many in person conversations are frequently interrupted before a topic can be resolved. The etiquette of people commenting on the news is downright dystopian. And every day when I look around me, I wonder how many people no longer make significant time for the ones they love in order to pursue a career that simply isn’t fulfilling. Saddest of all, I see way too many people abandoning their true selves, what makes each and every one of us a unique person, for various reasons.
In this forthcoming blog, I hope to help bring back the spirit of the renaissance. By this I mean being creative, being open, and exploring new ideas and experiences. In forthcoming blog entries, I plan to share all of the ideas and theories that are constantly spinning around in my head as I observe our society. I also hope that what I write encourages others to think deeper, stay true to themselves, and live lives that are both exciting and fulfilling.