The Darkness of Night: A Look at the European Renaissance

The Darkness of Night: A Look at the European Renaissance

A quote I’ve loved much, cited to Thomas Fuller, reads “the darkest hour is just before the dawn.”

Growing up in the fields of Iowa, the early morning drives with my dad to work on Saturdays, when the office was closed, were always something my brother and I looked forward to. The office was a place for play; full of mazes of rooms, Twizzlers on the desk, and a pendulum that traced an image in the sand below. It would be the best kind of adventure, packing up the truck to travel to the, at the time, small construction firm in a small community.

But what I loved most was this: we’d leave in the early hours of the morning, the stars still out, and take the 30-minute trek to the office. The sun burst from behind the horizon, the open skies illuminating the grasses and houses that sat quiet on the side of the road. Soon, the farmers would step outside into the daylight and begin their work. Some would look forward to this moment, while others desired more sleep.

This is much like a renaissance: the awakening and birth of new ideas and growth. In Europe, this renaissance produced innovations far beyond the previous block of time.

We saw breakthroughs in religion, technology, art– and nearly every other area, in some capacity– and sustained ideas and knowledge growth as a cultural integration. This type of renaissance is beloved and valued, and, interestingly enough, does not happen all that often.

Technologies and historical references emerged during this time period. Items such as the printing press and mariner’s compass erupted, people such as da Vinci and Dante produced work unlike any person before them. It was an effort that many bought into, and many succeeded.

As a child, my parents brought me up to the Renaissance Festival in Minneapolis, MN. Only four hours from my home in Iowa, I roamed the streets in a stroller, buckled in, staring at the wooden swords and copies of paintings from that time. While I was young at the time, the magic still sticks with me, as it does for a child at Disney World. But unlike the magic of Disney, this magic was real- created by real people, from a real time- and although it began in imagination, it became a reality that shifted the world (understanding that Disney also shifted the world, but in a different way).

What beauty it is to consider the European Renaissance as a time as it was: in harmony, growth, and establishment, rather than fear, hate, and violence. I sometimes wonder if we’ve missed the mark by not returning to our roots in renaissance times and re-establishing them today. What a pure joy it would be to live in a world that rejoices in itself and produces leaders in industry, arts, and sciences as the European Renaissance once did.

On the other hand, what preceded the European Renaissance was a time of darkness- and my hope is that we will soon find the dawn.

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