The Italian Renaissance is often described as an age without God because it moved from a spirituality focused on keeping God high and unattainable to one focusing on the self and raising it up. Rather than being Godless, this philosophy simply brought God down to eye level, making a positive relationship with him more accessible and rewarding. This increased ability to connect with God on more than a master-servant level gave way to humanism, a movement that focused on the individual for the first time as a way to express spirituality and to access the full capacity of human growth. From this age, there is an emphasis on improving the human experience to foster a healthier relationship with God, meaning that through finding the self and expressing it, you find God within yourself rather than outside yourself. Humanism gave the people of the Renaissance a chance to experience individual identity and access a deeply spiritual life through the immediacy of this relationship with God.
Today, there is still a deep emphasis on our identities as individuals. Our lives are customizable, from clothes to music to where we go to school. In other ways, there can seem to be a pull away from the self as we delve into the immediacy of our cellphones and iPods rather than the immediacy of one another. Mindless scrolling or putting in the earbuds plug us in to tune one another out. We crave individuality and connection with humans, yet find it easy to block away those organic connections in favor of synthesized ones. We have relationships with smartphones and laptops, but fewer with one another. I love my laptop, my iPod, and my iPhone… but I love my family, friends, boyfriend, and cat more. It can be easy to lose sight of one another in the fast-paced glow of a bright screen, but turning off and tuning in to the sunlight around you can be all the reminder we need to slow down every once in a while.
Being in the place where the idea of the individual first started to emerge, I find myself looking at the self I’m creating, and I’ve begun to ask how I will make her one who will rise up to meet God– how will she be the best me I have the capacity to be? Seeing the artwork of minds paving the way into this then-uncharted territory, challenging people to look into themselves for God rather than out, I am reminded (strangely), of a line from MacBeth– when Lady MacBeth recognizes the opportunity to seize the crown and the power she so craves. She refers to being “unsexed,” drained of herself and filled up instead with only pure ambition. While I’m not planning on offing any kings to rise to power, I think I’m beginning to understand that feeling. The profound effect of what I am experiencing here is at once personal and communal– I am at once a singular being and a body completely drained to make room for only the purest, profoundest emotion, to be shared by all who share my experience.
To relive an entire culture’s discovery of identity is to begin to truly discover my own, and I’m still trying to find the words to express exactly where that discovery is leading me. I am at once inspired to be silent and to pour myself into my writing and speak all I can. I am humbled yet inspired to reach forth and raise myself up, because this faith is one that is non-discriminatory: rather than an age without God, the humanistic Renaissance culture is one deeply involved in its relationship with him. It encourages every person to seek a relationship with God by using us as his creation to its fullest potential, proving the capacity of humanity to grow and learn from itself. Our souls know the way, and our only job is to take the time to pay attention.