A Touch of the Divine

Per the usual, as I am on the train heading to our next and last city, it is very hard to say good bye. I am more than sure that Rome will be fascinating and engaging in its own way, yet Rome, in all of its magnificence, symbolizes the eventual end to our journey. Thus, I feel a bitter, sweet sentiment as we trek onward

The transition from Riomaggiore to Florence was initially more difficult than one might suspect. Our time in Riomaggiore was filled with hours spent soaking in the beauty around us, with less of a structured schedule and more time to engage in our surroundings. However, Florence reinstated a system of deadlines and sites to see, which, at least personally, was difficult to transition to.

Nonetheless, reengaging in this system was quite interesting because the last time we had truly partaken in this aspect of CR was in Berlin and Munich, which feels like months ago. The contrast between Berlin and Munich and Florence was quite apparent in the focus of their stories. Berlin and Munich played a pivotal role in the development of Nazism, Communism, and World War II, which was the primary topics we studied in these cities. Our time in Florence, however, was very much focused on art, specifically relating to the Renaissance. A very different category of history. Thus, it was very interesting to analyze history through paintings, sculptures, and archeticture. Although it is a little different than reading information at a museum, classic art is essentially the contemporary hip-hip of its time; it tells the story of culture, society, and history of that time period.

As a person that appreciates art but does not know much about how to create art, visiting sites in Florence was a really interesting experience . It is also interesting to think that tens of thousands of people flock to, for example, the statue of the David by Michelangelo every year, yet most of those people probably are not sculptures and do not know the first step in creating art. Yet, the masses confirm that there is something undeniably righteous about masterpieces like the David. I think that it goes beyond the sheer beauty of the piece because many things are remarkably beautiful that do not require taking a plane to see. What draws people in? Why do completely unartistic people marvel at the wonder of the David? These were the questions, as a non-artistic person, that I was thinking about while I was completely mesmerized by the David.

The thought occurred to me that it was pretty unbelievable that a piece of stone with a few cuts in the right places can make me feel an emotion just by observing it. The fact that it can make me feel humbled and empowered is incredible. But why?

I think that beautiful art, like the David, are some of the closest things humans get to feeling the divine. The fact that emotion is created out of nothing. Something out of nothing. That is remarkable. Feeling emotion because of a piece of stone. That is why people, who do not know much about art, marvel at the beauty of the David. There is a sense of divinity that is felt through the emotion of view such a masterpiece.

The same concept can be applied to the street performer CR 11 listened to in the Uffizi square after our second night in Florence. He drew in the masses by beautifully playing his guitar with a presence of raw emotion that overflowed into the hearts of the spectators. I felt something sitting there under the stars, in the backdrop of the Uffizi gallery, with one man literally playing his heart out. It was a touch of the divine.

Art was a very prominent part of our experience in Florence, yet I think also being in a city that raises intellectual questions led to deep questions in conversation among the members of CR 11. Thus, I am grateful for all of the meaningful conversations I had during this time. I was going to simply list the people who I am referring to, but truly all of CR 11 has had this impact on me, in big and small ways. I am very grateful for these people and the profound impact they are continually having on me.

Lastly, the story of Florence would not be complete without sharing the Gondola ride we were able to share on our last night, under the stars. *Shout out to Fabricio for being the coolest Gondola driver* Nothing really beats listening to Madelyn Hicks and Griffin McPherson singing Rivers and Roads by Head and the Heart on a Gondola, at night, with some remarkable people, in Florence. That was a CR moment.

As I look forward to Rome, it is sad to see the end of our experience in sight. Yet, it all the more motivates me to live in the moment and to quote Grandma Donaldson “capture the essence of the present.”

Thank you CR.

Peter Donaldson

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