Eerie. Surreal. Silent. Mind-blown. That is the feeling I am having in Florence right now. As we live amid the thoughts of what kind of reset is happening and what kind of world and order will emerge after this moment in history. I live in a historic place and I am experiencing the energy of this place like never before and reflecting on the many strands which make up our personal memory.
My mind connects humanity to place, Art to humanity and what my limited study of History has taught me about moments like this. My road has led me to Brunelleschi, wanting to figure out more about he man who built a monument to the world.
From the moment my feet hit the ground in this city in 2011, I would describe it as electric. The energy of this place helped me better understand the influence our environment has on us and how the great cities of the world have grown out of their landscape. There is a unique energy Mother Earth pushes out from deep within her soul to specific points on the surface that attracts humans to settle and build cities, each with a unique character and feeling.
Cities are often criticized but they have grown out of places where people have been attracted and have naturally migrated to. They are representations of how people have gathered and collaborated and carved out a way of life and a place to “be” together. Florence is no exception. Cities are magnets, magnets for people. New York has “New Yorkers”, London has “Londoners” and Florence has Florentines. Every place and every people are defined by the very magnetic geography they find underfoot. Places draw people and people make places.
It was not long before I understood that Florence attracted beauty and represents beauty through an abundance of great art work. But it’s not simply art that lives here. Art was re-birthed here. It is a way of life, of looking at the world and at participating in a philosophy of living. Art is a Florentine’s birthright.
Early on, I realized that many of my Florentine friends seemed to have a completely different eye on the world, an eye that could perceive space, color and dimension with a critical accuracy of esthetic which is jaw-dropping and mesmerizing. Every hair that is out of place is spotted, an unbalanced color-hue, discarded — it’s an incredible talent and a curse. That is the kind of person that helped build this place.
It took months for me to comprehend this aesthetic myself. I have been making photographs my entire life, since we actually required film, chemicals and paper to make images. For about 8 months I could not make a decent photograph in Florence. The images looked wrong, looked “off”. Then one day I discovered why. It was all about math.
Lenses have all kinds of mathematics built in. Focus distances, field of view, depth of field, iris openings and distance to subject are some of the considerations when composing and creating an image. When I began to move the camera to reframe shots I had an ‘aha’ moment and boom!
I instantly began discovering those classic frames we see in Florence: a veil was lifted.
Still I continued to think more about why this was happening, trying to resolve the question and it led me to sacred geometry and the architectural mathematics of all of the great construction and architecture of Florence. I began to discover that there was a mathematical sweet spot to capturing images. This has had a wonderful impact on my cinematography as well.
The light falls on this city in a very special way. Many people have spoken about the light in Florence and the nature of how it falls between the narrow streets which creates an incredible contrast and the opportunity for dramatic light and challenging photographic opportunities. Capturing the feeling of the light here has been one of my great joys as I paint with digital camera sensor pixels now as my palate (although I miss film).
All of this of course contributes to how one chooses to live ones life. The esthetic extends to language, poetry, philosophy and faith. Food and faith seem to go hand in hand in Italy as the nourishment of the body and the soul are of paramount importance. In Italy these things have a strange way of fulfilling each other.
There is no limit, it seems, to the power of the spiritual geometry in Florence, purpose-built cathedrals and churches to amplify, transmit and receive the energy of the cosmos through meditation and prayer.
When I entered the cathedral while we were still permitted to pray within her walls. I could feel the enormous power of the space and the effects the architecture tangibly had on my ability to listen in silence and come into contact with the universe. I have never felt so connected to all things as when I was afforded this opportunity to sit in the total silence of the Cathedral while the city itself was also in total silence surrounding it.
In that silence there is a new peace that has formed in my heart. There is a new optimism and a new hope. There is a knowing that we are all more than our bodies and that the true thing to chase in life reside right within your own heart. The mystical and the mysterious, the millennia of data transmitted in the ether, the quantum realm of silence from which we have so much to more to discover.
Indeed it was here in Florence Italy where in a his speech “The Nature of Matter” delivered in1944, German scientist Max Planck first publicly used the term Quantum Physics.
The experience of silence has amplified the quantum nature of Florence — the city has returned to a silence it had no known since the pre Renaissance when 70,000 citizens lost their lives in the plague, decimating 60% of the city. That quiet is the place where the spirit within a person can be realized. The “noise” has effectively been taken out of this place and it is replaced by the sheer energy that pushed out here from the earths core which sent a whisper to her people, the original settlers here to build a city name her Fiorenza — Florence.
I felt the subtle and not so subtle energy of the mathematics applied to constructing the worlds largest masonry dome which sat 93 meters above my head still and silent but transmitting and receiving as it has for 600 years. It’s fitting that in August 2020 the city celebrates the 600th anniversary of the commencement of construction of Brunelleschi’s Dome.
Only Brunelleschi could fully understand the spiritual significance of the “earthly satellite station” he was building. Surely, he could not have understood the magnitude his work would have for centuries to come. I am convinced that he could not have created this space without pureness of heart and a deep ability to listen for wisdom that was coming out of the very quantum realm Max Planck would later talk about.
Mathew 5:8 states so beautifully and eloquently,
”Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”.
In creating a beacon to the world Filippo Brunelleschi, gave the pureness of his heart to many pilgrims, who have flocked to this city to see his marvel, climb her stairs and look over her rooftops and feel the point where the heavens meet man and man meets the heavens.
Yes, there are taller buildings and man has built higher, but the spirit of this place remains lodged in the Cupola’s architecture apex. The Cupola of Florence and her spiritual center the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, through their quantum force, still attract our attention. It is perhaps our imagination it ignites the most and also our sense of hope which reminds us that we are an eye blink while the great human kind creates last much longer than our short time here.
The moment shall pass, the spring shall arrive and precede the summer, the sun will shine bright and farmers fields will rest next winter, this cycle continues and this is our opportunity to reconnect with the wind and the tides and the stars, with each other and the quantum — in the love that we all can share being human.