The above quote from Leonardo da Vinci sums up not only what the first Renaissance leaders did but what we in America must do: provide a renewed vision for our age. The fountainhead? Now, as in Leonardo's time: ancient Greece and the prototype of the human ideal.
In order to engender an all-encompassing American Renaissance, we, too, must begin with the moral and spiritual nourishment of the individual, the "undivided" self. Individual excellence of personal character, of physical fitness, and of spiritual wholeness was the Greek ideal. Furthermore, it was the Greek thesis that individuals striving toward this ideal would, by virtue of the striving alone, create a diverse yet mutually beneficial society. And further still, it was their novel idea that art could be wrested from its primitive origins and usages to become a universal language with the power to communicate philosophical, abstract ideas via concrete forms that spoke directly to all individuals as individuals.
How right they were! Still today, in a vastly altered world, their great art uplifts the spirts of people all over the globe, reminding us each of the beauty, the possibilities, and the glories of human potential.
In order to gain energy for charting a new course from this ideological starting point, however, we need fuel--emotional fuel. This means nurturing not only the mind but the heart and soul as well. This means beauty.
Beauty: Order. Proportion. Balance. Harmony. Grace. Beauty possesses redemptive powers all of its own, as in nature. But when beauty is created by human hand, it can be even more redemptive, more powerful, because it is created with intent. In their elevated art forms (beyond utilitarian function and decor), some expressions of beauty are also permeated with the highest of human values, letting each of us, individually, experience our own best self as surely as if our own soul were turned inside out and visible to us reflected clear and sharp from a mirror.
Mathematical beauty can become an end in itself in art as exemplified by the best abstract sculpture and painting; but this is not the highest purpose of art because it lacks human content. Nor is beauty per se the raison d'etre of high art. High art is defined here as art expressing such a depth and universality of humanistic meaning that it transcends not only its local subject matter but also its own time and place and becomes a projection of a heightened reality. Thus, it acquires metaphysical...