Happy Easter! And from somewhere that is wildly different for me. The home of the reformation. An inspiration, catalyst and base for our unfolding as we meet today’s meta-crisis.
The Uffizi, Florence. Home of the Reformation.
It’s a deep journey. I am absorbed as I step into the galleries. I feel grounded in care. I am held, cradled by the inquiries of so many people who’ve been of and from this place.
These are people who’ve been compelled to help us all grow. They’ve done it in art. Done it in enduring collective structures. And I feel deeply connected to the inner shifts that are developed and illustrated in these Florence galleries.
Simon’s Substack is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
They speak to our individual and collective thinking-pattern shifts. Changes that have happened across the centuries and these lift me to what is possible today. These past supports for our flourishing are vividly felt in my body, all the efforts of these people carry me. The presence of them is here and now with, for example, the aliveness of what’s created here stark from the reformation times. Vibrant in our present day.
Deep connections to meta-crisis soft landings
Strange fascination, fascinating me Ah, changes are taking the pace I’m going through Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes (turn and face the strange) Changes, David Bowie
What do I mean? A few highlights.
We, humans, have successfully done this before. We have successfully changed our thinking patterns, socialising power, enhancing collective intelligence, catalyzing nonlinear flourishing.
The reformation. People and society went from the times when God was bigger than everything and everyone to a broader perspective. You see this walking the decades of the Uffizi as the art progresses—the galleries are arranged in chronological order across centuries. The art distinctly shifts. After a hundred years or so we grow in proportion to God, we hold ourselves and the world in equitable and more inclusive terms.
I love it, in part, as we’re doing this now, we are in an analogous thinking pattern shift to that of the reformation. We are going from our modern day story of individual success, regardless of the costs, as the measure of a valued life, to seeing that we are far more than this and weaving together new sets of collective values.
Step forward in time. A few galleries into the Uffizi I turn a corner and I’m filled by the Primavera (Spring). It is the Botticelli, this substack’s illustration above.
The painting is, in part, a long story of love (and, ok Stockholm syndrome and remorse too). It is a serious celebration past piety—we are more than just our devoutness and devotion to god. It’s made for long winter evenings, a picture to gather around, tell stories and explore together the complexity of meanings illustrated in it.
In its history too it marks independence, honouring a diversity of thought. As does the da Vinci, below.
In Leonardo’s painting the sarcophagus always looks straight at you. A promise of eternity? Yet…
This is far from a one sided illustration. In the picture Mary is reluctantly accepting the angel’s gift. There are many other paintings in the Uffizi where her reaction to the Angel is shock. She rejects becoming a mother in this way. And who can blame her. Jesus’s whole life, including his tortured easter, is written in the book beneath her right hand
Yet, she says yes. The Angel is relieved. Conflicted in its task. Caring and compassionate. Humanity and divinity present. Far from an ‘I know what’s best for you’ dogmatic representation of God who’s happy to impose this child on Mary regardless of what she feels.
Mary’s also been given liberty by Leonardo in this depiction. She is saying yes in this world. She is not cloistered away as she would traditionally have been. The door is open to her room where she would have been confined, in earlier paintings a few decades ago.