Sometimes I wonder how humanity has become what it is today, a world full of different viewpoints and philosophies. Sometimes I thought to myself, “What if the Renaissance never occurred?” Maybe if that was true, considering the evolution of mankind during the Renaissance, our world would be very different today.
The Renaissance was an era when “self consciousness and awareness” (McKay 412) was raised to a new level, a level that allowed humans to evolve further. This new age gave birth to a new philosophical system called “humanism,” which was initially “study of Latin classics to find more about human nature” (McKay 413). I think this was a period of self-discovery, when humans found the power of freedom they had lost in the Middle Ages. I read a segment of a book (Religion and the Order of Nature) by an Iranian Professor Hossein Nasr, who said that the study of the classics, “such disciplines as poetry, rhetoric, and history, would provide such a widening of the horizon for man and enable him to interact in a new way with nature and history” (Nasr 165). I think humanism was a light that paved its way through the darkness of the Middle Ages and allowed man to expand his landscape of possibilities. The self-awareness lost within the depths of mankind had been reawakened.
When that self-awareness had been amplified to a new level, any man can do whatever he wanted because of the “divine image planted in him” (McKay 413). McKay goes on to say that , “there are no limits to what [man] can accomplish” (McKay 413). Back in the Middle Ages, a peasant remained a peasant, and that status was maintained throughout his or her lifetime (Bruno). The Renaissance initiated the “rebirth of human spirit, which could be freed through the study of Greek and Latin classics” (Nasr 165). The result of this was that people had freedom and their own intentions and dreams. In today’s society, I could hypothetically get any job, ranging from being an airplane pilot to a basketball player.
I think the reason humanism came to expand so quickly was because when the Church was in decline, people took that opportunity to “discover the explanation of everything and the final end of human beings within the limits of what senses can discover” (McKay 416). Many people started to realize that “god could not be tested” (Bruno). This allowed “reason to surpass faith” (Bruno). I think that from that point onwards, God slowly lost his influence in the world, and the people of the Earth began to take a shape of their own.
Humanism and the Renaissance obviously played a huge part in the development of our civilization. Had the Renaissance not occurred, the lives of myself and many others may be completely different. Since my Chinese ancestors were farmers, maybe I would have been growing up, as a farmer and my father would never have been a banker. Potentially, all the scientific discoveries of Da Vinci and Galileo may have gone to waste. The people of China may still believe that a solar eclipse is when a Dragon is trying to devour the Sun. The Europeans may still have believed that the Black Plague was caused by Jews. When I thought about this unwanted alternate reality, I feel grateful that the Renaissance, which is depicted in the image below, took place to allow myself to live in the light of a free world, not the darkness of the Middle Ages.
McKay, John P. A History Of Western Society. B. Boston: Houghton Mifflin College Div, 2008.
Bruno, Maxon. “The Consequences of Humanism”. Patriarchal Force and Political Power 18/09/2010. N.pag. Patriarchal Force and Political Power. Web 1 Feb
Nasr, Hossein. Religion and the Order of Nature. 1st. 1996. 164-166. Print