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The Renaissance Begins

The Discovery of the Individual and the Rediscovery of Classical Art and Literature

Interest in classical literature started during the Middle Ages, then during the latter part of the Middle Ages, theologians, philosophers, and writers were interested in Latin literature as well as the Latin translations of Greek literature. Studies of the classics remained primarily limited to this “class” (theologians, philosophers, and writers) but that all changed for the Renaissance.

People of different segments of society began studying the history, art, and literature of the past. This is a distinct shift from the Middle Ages where “professionals” did most of the studies. As the Renaissance came into being, more and more amateurs began to study and become interested in art, literature, and history.

Art, in particular, changed dramatically. During the Middle Ages, art (and literature to a great degree) was designed for a specific purpose or interest (mostly religious). During the Renaissance, art and literature came to exist for its own beauty and/or as ideals of beauty or learning.

Humanism and Individualism

Recognizing individual efforts and the concept of becoming known beyond the local area (fame) began to grow during the Renaissance. Artists, in particular, understood that by signing their works, they could gain renown in areas far from their own. This is in stark contrast to artists during the Middle Ages, who, for the most part, painted to glorify God. In addition, a painting to glorify God did not require the artist to sign the work. As a result, the artists for many of the works done during the Middle Ages remain unknown today.

The attention to the development of the individual during the Renaissance also included education. Importance was placed on individual education in all intellectual areas as well as becoming knowledgeable about one’s physical being, which meant learning things like swordsmanship or wrestling. During the Renaissance, you could become educated in many different areas (writing, swordsmanship, etc). This was almost the opposite of beliefs of the Middle Ages when education was highly structured and typically was for only one field. So during the Middle Ages, experts in specific fields were highly regarded, and during the Renaissance, such need to become a specialist in a single field was not held high regard. As a matter of fact, the beliefs during the Renaissance were that an individual should study many different fields and become as educated in as many varying fields as possible.

Interest in History and the Rebirth

During the 14th and 15th centuries in Italy, the study of history became popular. The conclusions drawn by Italian scholars who had studied history was that they were living in a new era. They believed that they were free from the “darkness and ignorance” of the past.

Scholars began comparing their accomplishments with the glories of the achievements of ancient Greece and Rome. During the 14th century, one group of Italian writers believed that the current age was like the great civilizations of the past because the current age showed an emphasis on artists and their achievements as did, as they believed, all great societies of the past.

A shift in political beliefs began too. Florentine scholar Leonardo Bruni believed the best form of government was a republican or representative form of government. He, and like-minded thinkers, found such a government when they studied ancient Rome before the emperors came to power. They believed this was the best model for a government to take. This movement encouraged education in social and political life. They believed in patriotism and in humanistic learning and that, the residents of Florence, in particular, and other Italian cities should be proud of their heritage.

These political and cultural changes eventually made their way out of Italy and into other parts of Europe.

The 18th century, also known as the “Age of Enlightenment” was a time when the ideas of the Renaissance continued to grow and become more widespread. Specifically, it was a time when the advancements in science led to an emphasis on the power of human reasoning.

One of the better-known intellectuals or “Enlightened” thinkers was French philosopher Voltaire. He believed that this new era was a time to liberate thinking away from the superstition that, he believed, characterized the Christian society of the Middle Ages. He applauded the declining power of the prevalent Roman Catholic Church.

History was sometimes rewritten and during the 19th century Romantic Movement, the Renaissance was evaluated in an entirely different manner by the romanticists. They tended to emphasize passion over logic and reason. They had a great interest in those who were well known but who had unconventional personalities. People like the poet Petrarch, or the artist Michelangelo or the philosopher Descartes. These romanticists believed a very important part of the Renaissance was the individualism that flourished at the time. The capabilities and the rights of individuals were most important to them.

Which Belief is Correct

Scholars who have studied the Middle Ages became convinced that the changes attributed to the Renaissance actually began to occur during the Middle Ages. These scholars believe the Renaissance is not a “rebirth” but a continuation of the changes in the processes and beliefs that began centuries before the Renaissance began.

Some argue that the Renaissance was more an ending of the Middle Ages than any sort of rebirth. They argue that the scholars during the Middle Ages studied, knew, and valued classical writings and art.

The once held belief that there was some sort of rapid and/or abrupt change between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance is all but gone now.

Regardless of the interpretation, most agree that the Renaissance intellectuals believed that they were in an age that would be a turning point in history and that they, with their new wisdom and enlightenment, were entirely different from their medieval predecessors.

A touch of “Swan Song” and a dash of “The Stand”…Very good post-apocalyptic tale in the mode and mood of R. McCammon’s “Swan Song” and S. King’s “The Stand”. ★★★★★

Excerpt from Troop of Shadows:

Colleyville, Texas

Dani cursed the weight of her backpack. The final two items from the ransacked Walgreens, crammed in as an afterthought ten minutes ago, might cost her everything. After surviving the last twelve months of hell only to be thwarted now by a can of Similac and a twelve-pack of Zest soap, would be sadly anticlimactic. Despite running at a full sprint down a dark suburban street, dodging overflowing garbage cans while eluding three men who would steal her hard-won tubes of Neosporin and likely rape and kill her in the process, she snorted at the thought of a fictional headline: Young Woman’s Life Ends Tragically but Zestfully Clean.

Damn it, she would ditch the backpack. She could come back tomorrow night for it, but right now staying alive outweighed any future benefit its contents might provide. As her pursuers rounded the corner behind her, she darted across the front lawn of a house and leaped over a cluster of dead juniper shrubs. A year ago, those shrubs had been green, manicured, and providing curb appeal to the upscale neighborhood; they functioned now as a hurdle component in the obstacle course Dani navigated on most nights.

She angled toward the side of the house and around the corner, only to come to an abrupt stop next to a six-foot barricade. Residents of these sprawling bedroom communities situated between Dallas and Fort Worth clung to their privacy fences as fiercely as their rural counterparts did to their firearms. Why all those day-trading dads and cheerleader moms required such secrecy was beyond Dani. She didn’t care. All that mattered was how difficult they made her nightly forages. Only idiots or people with a death wish traveled alone on the streets anymore. The clever ones navigated through backyards and drainage ditches, shadowed easements and alleyway, avoiding open spaces and other humans.

Especially humans traveling in groups.

Stealth and caution were second nature to her now, and she was pissed at herself for loading up the backpack with more weight than she could easily carry at a full run.

Rookie mistake.

She flung the pack into the undergrowth of a once meticulous garden, making a mental note of the enormous red tip photinia which camouflaged the bundle in a leafy shroud. She hoped to be alive the next day to retrieve it.

She clambered up the fence, finding a toehold on a warped plank, and squirmed over the top. A silver fingernail of a moon did little to illuminate the backyard. Weak starlight reflected off the inky surface of a half-empty, kidney-shaped swimming pool. Her Nikes gripped the concrete deck as she skirted the murky water and made a beeline for the back of the yard that was, of course, separated from its neighbor by a privacy fence. It was a tall one too — a full ten feet. There were no bushes or trees to use for leverage either. She scanned the area for anything that might serve as a step ladder.

Of all the yards she could have chosen for her escape, she’d picked one with a damn ten-foot fence.

Her heart raced from the sprint, but not from panic. Gone was the young woman from a year ago, the full-time floundering college dropout and part-time surly Starbucks barista who spent too much time reading books and not enough time looking for a job that would allow her to move out of her parents’ house. She was too smart for her own good, everyone had told her. She should have taken that secretarial position in North Dallas, but she would have lost her sanity in that environment. The tedious filing, the ringing phones, the office politics — in other words, hell on earth for a girl with an IQ over a hundred and fifty.

Despite the recent horrors, she’d come into her own at last, after twenty-one years of meandering through life unfocused and unchallenged. The extra twenty pounds she’d been carrying courtesy of Freddy’s cheeseburgers and Taco Bell burritos were gone, thanks to her newfound self-discipline and endless hours of Krav Maga training with Sam. Not only had she transformed her body, she’d elevated and strengthened her mind as well. Before the power had gone out, she’d watched countless tutorials on T’ai Chi, Qigong, and Buddhist meditation. During that same window — when people were beginning to get sick, but before most of them had died — she’d combed book stores and libraries within a fifteen-mile radius. When the country went dark and people realized that life-saving information was no longer available with a few keystrokes, Dani had amassed reference material on subjects as diverse as hydroponics and combat first aid, ancient meat drying techniques and bomb making. Between martial arts lessons with Sam, she spent every spare minute absorbing the printed esoteric knowledge like a greedy lizard on a sun-drenched rock.

Knowledge was survival.

When the first of the men slithered over the fence into the backyard, she hadn’t found anything to use as a foothold. Another figure followed behind him. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath and released it from her lungs, slow and measured, then took off at a full run toward them. While she ran, fingers slid down to a leather sheath secured to her belt. Two seconds before she reached the first of her would-be assailants, a Ka-Bar — the grandaddy of tactical knives — was in her hand.

Dani used momentum and every ounce of her one-hundred-twenty pound frame to slam the first man into the second, knocking both assailants off-balance and unprepared for her next move: a vicious stab to the groin of the first. He collapsed to his knees. She followed with a backhand movement, opening up the throat of his companion. A similar gesture to the man with the injured groin silenced his moaning.

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