The opportunities in adversity

As the bubonic plague hung over Europe in the mid-14th Century, it must have been difficult to imagine any associated blessings. But that’s just what the late Norman F. Cantor proposed in his book, In The Wake Of the Plague: The Black Death and The World It Made.

Cantor wrote that the devastation caused the demise of the Dark Ages, and made way for a new, enlightened order. Cantor argues that, “the Black Death heralded an intellectual revolution.” He is talking about The Reformation, The Renaissance, and The Age of Enlightenment.

Consider a few developments that occurred not long after The Plague:

Information
Gutenberg (1400-68) used his movable type to make mass printing possible. Books and bibles finally could be available to the masses. Now for the first time in human history, there was a reason for ordinary people to learn to read.

Religion
Martin Luther (1483-1546) began the Protestant Reformation, which helped loosen the grip of the old church dogma on the state and the people, and just in time for the new Gutenberg bibles.

Art
Michelangelo (1475-1564) created Renaissance art that is still valid, imitated, and valued 500 years later. Enlightened minds are inspired by beautiful things.

Science and Engineering
Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) actually made significant contributions to art, thought, AND science and engineering. He was perhaps the Renaissance man. Civilization still benefits from the leveraging of his work and his thoughts.

History tells us that, just as controlled burning of brush can leave a healthier forest, adversity can spawn opportunity. But to appreciate history, one has to take the long view.

Let’s all work on our long views.


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