Saturday, February 01, 2014

The Dark Ages in the United States

This is, well, I'm not sure if it's original since I'm building on others, but one perspective on the Renaissance and on its development was that it was a fusion of the rediscovery of southern classicism with a new sense of introspection from the north. South and north here refer to Italy, and Greece, on the one hand, and the domains of the Holy Roman Empire on the other. Northern Italy was key because it was in fact a border land between the two realms.

But the Holy Roman Empire was the remnant of the Dark Ages, of the barbarian hordes that invaded Italy and destroyed the Roman Empire, ending classical learning and putting back culture in Europe for hundreds of years. However, after being nice and medieval for a long period of time, there was a movement in art, and possibly in literature, to examining the everyday events of life in a naturalistic way, with Dutch and Flemish artists paving the way. This may have been made possible by the very barbarian sense of freedom that the people there still embodied.

However, the Reformation, as opposed to the Renaissance, shows what could happen if that sense of naturalism isn't tempered with an awareness of the classical past and of the range of scholarship and insight into the human condition that it brings. Martin Luther, and indeed most of the more Germanic reformers, had an awareness of the natural progress of life, but he yoked it to a regressive Christianity that instead of providing liberation, like the Renaissance in Italy did, brought people even more into a repressive denial of life than they had been in before. Fueled by religious fanaticism, the naturalism of the Germans became an obsessive examination of personal faith, salvation, and sin.

It seems that we in the U.S. have certainly got the Naturalism, via Protestant Christianity, but we are woefully unaware of the realms of human life that the classical heritage deals with, leading certain parts of the country to resemble Dark Ages feudal islands of backwardness rather than liberated, Renaissance, city states.

1 comment:

RadioMike said...

Interesting comparison to the Roman Empire. It's not the first time and won't be the last. I saw an article in the local spiritual magazine discussing going off grid in terms of money and considering Bitcoin, and the current monetary system of fiat currency was apparently part of the reason that the Empire fell and why China is in danger of collapse as well as the US.