May 26, 2021
The image above is that of Sofonisba Anguissola, a female artist during the time of the Renaissance. It’s funny how when you think of the Renaissance you immediately think of the great works of Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci. But, did you know that there were female artists too? They didn’t get much attention at the time, but their works were no less amazing than their male counterparts. In fact, when Michelangelo met Sofonisba, he immediately realized her talent.
It’s hard to imagine life at that time. You look at the image and you see a young woman artist, neatly dressed with hair perfectly pulled back with beautiful braiding. Her dress is a dark black color but perfectly in place, and her hands are ever so gently holding her paint brushes. Much of her art was of her family in simple moments, with a famous one showing her sisters playing a game of chess. Yet her attention to detail and her ability to recreate the images of the moment are truly beautiful.
I often think about these times in history and wonder what life was like. The Renaissance was a time of individualism and humanism with an underlying pursuit of a new realism and desire to capture the world as it really was. The artist tried to paint and draw with precision and this often meant years of dedication to their craft. Imagine waking up in the morning with the sole purpose of painting and drawing to capture the beauty of the moment, as it was ever so fleeting.
In contrast, we live in a time where we simply take out our phones and capture an image at any moment in time and have it stored in our drive quite possibly forever. I wonder though, the difference…the difference of capturing the beauty of a moment or a person through the gentle strokes of a paintbrush and our full attention, versus the quick snap from our phone’s camera. Sometimes we snap an image to never even look at it again.
It saddens me a little and it also reminds me of the importance of being present with our loved ones and giving life our full attention. I rarely see it any more. In fact in my 20 years of practicing pediatrics I’ve seen a shift in attention like never before. When I first started to practice there were no smart phones and moms came in ready to have a full conversation and often brought toys to keep their kids distracted at the doctors office. Now our conversations are interrupted by the clicking of my computer as I enter information into their electronic medical records and the ringing of cell phones or constant notifications coming from parent’s and patient’s cell phones.
We’ve grown accustomed to living in this chaos and when I look at the painting of Sofonisba I wonder if she had lived during this time period, instead of during the Renaissance, if she would have found the time to explore her talents. I wonder what talents we have yet to discover within ourselves or that of our children, as we spend countless hours staring at tik tok videos or browsing through social media. Makes you wonder….It makes me wonder every day.
My challenge for you this week is to allow yourself to be bored and allow your children to be bored. Try sitting with your thoughts, without distraction, and pay attention to what your mind comes up with. Try to be present in everything you do for a week, paying attention to every detail of what you are actually doing at the moment, even the simple mundane things.. It’s hard! This is why now more than ever we need to be bored and we need our kids to be bored. Boredom leads to creativity and creativity can lead to countless opportunities and ingenuity. I challenge you this week to give it a try and see how it goes!
Have a wonderful week!
Elizabeth Vainder, M.D.