For more than a thousand years, and up until about six hundred years ago, the world was mired in the Dark Ages, a time of horrific plagues, religious wars between Christians and anyone non-Christian, and utter chaos. In the midst of this deep darkness a new age of art, music, and culture was being born. It marked the dawn of an explosion of creativity that gradually swept Europe; indeed the world will never be the same. Today a trip through Europe is profoundly a trip through that amazing period in our planet’s history.
This “Renaissance” was a clarion call to humanity that we needed to aspire to higher virtues and values that were absent during the Dark Ages. It was a challenge to aspire to achieving lives of beauty.
It was the wealthy families who ruled Florence and became the patrons for “renaissance men” like Da Vinci and Michelangelo, who were not only wildly skilled artists, but also inventors and innovators of the highest order. Some of Da Vinci’s futuristic renderings of flying machines were incredibly visionary at a time when humanity as a whole could have never grasped the possibility of flight.
The standing of artists in society was on the rise, since the wealthy were paying for it. They saw art and culture as inextricably linked to society’s advancement.
As the liberating winds of the Renaissance swept across Europe – at a pace unheard of during the Middle Ages — new artists were born, new composers, new musicians, new philosophers, new intellectuals, new dancers. Even some who had defined themselves only as the merchant class became patrons of a new artist class. Indeed, some of the merchants themselves were gifted beyond the world of commerce.
A school of thought called Renaissance humanism held the fundamental belief that humans are limitless in their capacity for development. Therefore people should embrace all knowledge and develop their capacities as fully as possible. This was the foundation for the term ‘Renaissance man’ which became the label for the gifted people who sought to develop their abilities in all areas of accomplishment: intellectual, artistic, social and physical.
In the 21st century, there have obviously been massive advances since the days of our renaissance ancestors. Never before in the world’s history have we been so close and instantaneously connected, and we have technology to thank for this connectedness.
And yet the parallels with the times before the Renaissance are also striking: terrifying wars started by religious fanatics to conquer the rest of the world, global problems like climate change and modern-day plagues from super-bugs that threaten the survival of our planet, along with a growing sense that we are limiting our lives and limiting our power to change the world if we see our individual and collective potentials too narrowly. That in spite of technological connectedness, there is a deep disconnect from our hearts and what truly makes us come alive to solve problems, to love, and to create.
Whether it’s through massive festivals like Burning Man that celebrate the magnificent freedom of human creativity and community, or the myriad businesses creating technology-aided explosions of art, music, virtual reality and limitless creativity at an unprecedented level, we are in the birth canal of a new humanity. Our planet requires it. Our souls demand it.
A new generation is impatient with the narrow stressed disconnected lives of its predecessors. It sees a world on the brink, and has grown impatient to change the world while creating beautiful loving lives in the process. Their parents are seeing old idealisms, old talents, old gifts being reborn in the face of a world more crazy and dangerous than ever.
It took me a series of life-threatening illnesses and nearly 60 years of life to fully integrate the skills and talents of my Renaissance Human. Once that process began in earnest I became focused on helping others develop their multi-dimensional selves through the power of love.
Apparently I’ve got some street cred to launch two programs called Renaissance Mentoring. In my twenties I enjoyed success as an accomplished actor, singer, dancer in New York, I’ve had my own small art business, I’m an author, blogger, mentor, executive coach, entrepreneur and photographer. (When my article on stress and executive performance was published in the Harvard Business Review my New England in-laws began looking at me much differently, in a good way.) As an original member and later CEO of the acclaimed HeartMath organization, I’ve consulted to the Stanford Business School, NASA, the UK’s National Health Service, the World Bank, and global corporations.
Through my experience I’m suggesting that becoming your own Renaissance Human is not just to bring greater creativity, fulfillment, energy and clarity for you and your business, but it’s also for everyone else — to make it easier for them to be fully themselves too.
To paraphrase Dr Seuss, “to become the youest you you can possibly be. Because there’s no one else that’s youer than you.”
If you’re interested to learn more about my Renaissance Mentoring programs and whether they fit your business needs, click here