History has shown us that change is ever present. Whether we can recognize it as it is occurring or in hindsight, change is ramping up, in full swing, or winding down across many facets of human life at any time. Waves of innovation follow the same patterns regardless of the part of the human experience being affected. The “winds of change” start to blow, be they a need that is identified, new ways of think that start to develop, or a disruption that shifts the cultural landscape. The wave’s energy then moves through the discipline or culture; and as the change occurs it can bring upheaval.
Historical periods such as the Renaissance, the Age of Enlightenment, and the Industrial Revolution all bring forth an image of a time period where much change occurred. Each cultural movement included innovative change that influenced a broad range of humanities such as politics, philosophy, religion, science, art, music, and literature.
The Renaissance, chiefly experience in Europe, saw the rebirth of interest of the great accomplishments of the civilizations of Ancient Greece and Rome. This cultural rebirth began of the 1300s and ended around 1650. New discoveries (including exploring the “New World” to the west) resulted in changes that had a global impact. Reform was also a chief characteristic of this time period as Protestantism arose and education became more widespread. The development of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg allowed for books to be reproduced in quantities thus disseminating knowledge to more people.
Artists, inspired by Greco-Roman art, began a renewed interest in the physical form which can be seen in much of the sculpture of this period, including Michelangelo’s David. Also, artists learned about linear perspective, using it in their paintings to create depth which helped to depict a more accurate reality. The renewed interest in the human form also gave rise to the field of anatomy, documented by Andreas Vesalius, now considered the father of modern anatomy.
Humanism became a focus of scholarly attention as people sought to understand what it meant to be human instead of focusing on spiritual matters and their relationship to God. This shift caused the rise in the use of reason by people to understand the world around them instead of astrology or mysticism. The telescope was developed by Copernicus as he sought to show that the sun, not the Earth, was the center of our solar system. This thinking threatened to unseat the Earth and God’s creation as the center of universe. Influential figures of the period included Da Vinci, Galileo, Copernicus, Machiavelli, Michelangelo, John Calvin, Queen Elizabeth, and King Henry VIII.
So what can thinking about the Renaissance teach us about change? Sometimes a need pushes change, such as peasants being able to demand better compensation for their work due to the lack of workers available than under the previous feudal system. Maybe it takes new ways of thinking to spark new ideas, such as humanism’s focus on the human condition as an inspiration to explore anatomy. Or maybe it is a tragedy like the Black Death beginning in the mid-1300s that caused a huge shift in society and had a heavy impact on the art and literature of the time. How is change occurring in your thinking, your community, your business, etc.? Determining what may be changing, and how you can ride that wave, can be life altering.