The Renaissance was a time in Europe, from the 14th to the 17th century. Think of it as the bridge between the Middle Ages and modern history. It started as a cultural movement in Italy in the Late Medieval period and spread to the rest of Europe, marking the beginning of the Early Modern Age. This new thinking became manifest in art, architecture, politics, science and literature. Leonardo da Vinci is perhaps the most famous person from the Renaissance period. He’s known for mastering invention, painting, sculpting, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, writing, history, and cartography.
What does the Renaissance have to do with you, and why should you have a personal Renaissance? Personal fulfillment.
What’s the purpose of life? What brings lasting happiness? What happens after we die? Most people ask questions like these. Leonardo da Vinci wasn’t merely asking questions, he was searching for answers. His search required a strong devotion to acquiring knowledge. We are fortunate to live in the information age. It’s never been easier to learn. We can take free courses at Harvard without leaving our homes. Imagine what a Renaissance figure would’ve done if she had access to the internet.
“But I’m busy. I work long hours, and I have to take care of my family,” you say. We are all busy, but a crowded calendar is no excuse to put your life on hold. What’s the point of life, if you're a slave to your calendar? Life is about choices. You might have some important commitments, but they are probably there because you chose them. We all have the same 24 hours each day. We’ll talk about about time management in future essays, but for now let’s just say, you can find the time.
To begin this personal journey, you need to have some goals in mind. I’m constantly working on my personal Renaissance. I focus on a number of areas that enrich my life and the lives of those I meet. Here are the main things I like to think about.
- Mindfulness. I once considered becoming a Zen monk, so I’ve spent many hours in meditation. While I'm not a religious person, meditation helped me develop a strong degree of mindfulness. It’s easier to see the different mental states I pass through from moment to moment. That means I can better control my emotions, and enjoy a more stable life. I’m also better equipped to deal with struggles that come my way.
- Physical Wellness. Notice I didn’t say, “maintaining a hot body”. Physical wellness is more than appearance. While washboard abs might be a side effect, I focus on wellness for holistic benefits. I want a long and pain-free existence. Healthy diet, exercise, and regular sleep make it easier to achieve that goal. My focus on physical wellness also means that I’m better able to enjoy things like hiking, swimming, and intellectual activities.
- Relationships. Human beings are social animals. Life has far less meaning without communication skills. As a dating coach I've spent a lot of my time strengthening this part of my life. Strong personal relationships are the backbone of a healthy life. I strive to have healthy interactions with everyone I meet. Living this way creates a positive feedback loop. I treat people nicely, so they enjoy my company, and tend to treat me nicely. Not a bad deal.
- Science. I love learning and science is our best tool for learning. I regularly read about biology, physics, and chemistry. Scientific literacy opens me up to better understand nature. Plus it’s just a lot of fun.
- Philosophy. I am specifically interested in questions of ethics. I believe that most of our actions have some sort of ethical significance. Learning from people who came before me is an exciting way to augment my daily experience.
- Art. Most of us like art. We listen to music, play on Instagram, watch movies, and read books. Art is all around us. I take special pleasure in learning about the art that surrounds me. It opens me up to rewarding conversations with people who share my interest. My deeper understand of art also makes me appreciate it more.
- Career. I love my work, but not because it earns me money. I’d still do my work if I had all the money I could ever spend. Improving your skill set is an important way to support the other items on this list. A well-designed career can also strengthen your community, so it’s worth considering.
I hope this post convinces you to consider the benefits of starting a personal Renaissance. You’re capable of great things. You’ve been endowed with human consciousness. It’s an incredible gift and a terrible thing to waste.