The Four Cornerstones of a Neo Renaissance Life

Lagoon Nebula. From Wikimedia
Lagoon Nebula (From Wikimedia)

We all strive for some sort of balance in our lives, but do we ever find time in our busy days to think about what sort of balance we need or want? Most people would say they want a balance between work, family, and friends. But what about balance within ourselves? Shouldn’t we be inwardly balanced before we endeavor to balance the external factors of our lives?

To me, there are four cornerstones of a balanced life. They represent our Spiritual, Emotional, Intellectual, and Physical selves. Each should be an equal partner in a healthy person. Ignoring any of them will harm the others, because we can’t be our best selves if three sides of us are terrific and the fourth sits in a metaphysical corner, moping from neglect. In this day of fast-paced living, instant communication, and information overload, a Neo Renaissance life seeks to slow the world down, put people and events in perspective, and work toward that four-sided balance. Let’s talk about one of those cornerstones. I’ll discuss the other three in subsequent posts.


Whether or not you believe in some sort of Higher Power, or have merely wondered how the heck the Earth was created and how we humans got here and managed to survive and prosper this long, we all need to at least consider the big picture questions.

Not being particularly religious in the organized, church-going way, my spiritual focus is biased toward nature. I recently returned from a five-day solo trip through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA) in northern Minnesota. I’ve been to the BWCA close to thirty times, and always return home with my spiritual battery recharged.

The BWCA is unique in that motorized travel is prohibited on all but a handful of its more than 1,000 lakes. Transportation is by canoe, kayak, or foot. Campsites are available on most of the lakes, but are primitive in that they consist of a fire grate, a relatively flat spot to pitch a tent, and an open air latrine set well back from the lakeshore. Cell phones don’t work within most of the BWCA  so visitors must behave as if they have no quick access to help in case of an emergency.

Shell Lake at sunset, BWCA
Sunset on Shell Lake, BWCA

Because of its primitive quality, the BWCA is a great place to observe Mother Nature at work. Bear, wolves, deer, moose, river otters, beavers, mink, bobcats, lynx, loons, eagles, trumpeter swans, ruffed grouse, owls, and many other animals go about their daily lives with minimal intrusion from civilization.

Stargazing is exponentially intensified because light pollution doesn’t interfere with viewing. I was fortunate on this latest trip to witness the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) in action. Watching the massive energy emitted from Earth’s magnetic field dance across the sky certainly puts my life in perspective. Each of us is but an atomic particle in the vastness of the Earth, an even smaller particle in the universe. Somehow my personal problems don’t seem so large when compared to what takes place in our atmosphere on any given day.

An example of the Aurora Borealis. From Wikimedia
An example of the Aurora Borealis (From Wikimedia)

At night, sitting beside a campfire on the edge of the water, I often reflect on the vastness of nature and those big picture questions. On this trip I reflected on the fact that the majority of life on earth is destined to become another life form’s lunch. People and the animals at the top of the food chain are the exceptions, and we eventually succumb to illness, injury, or old age, then provide food for the lowest forms of life–bacteria, insects, worms, and the like. Interesting … or depressing if you think about it long enough. No life form has ever gamed the system and lived forever. Some things live for days or even hours (May flies, mosquitos) others live for hundreds of years (tortoises, redwoods). Sooner or later, we are all recycled.

One of my fiction protagonists, Matt Lanier, worked as a guide in the BWCA during high school and college. He also grew up on a farm, which gives a person a deeper understanding of life and death than those raised in an urban setting. Raised Lutheran, Matt attended church regularly like most baby boomers but drifted away from religion as an adult. So he too finds solace and balance in nature and quiet reflection. His wilderness experience colors his life view but also gives him a better sense of self-reliance and confidence, knowing he can survive in a primitive setting with minimal equipment and mobility.

Around that campfire, I wonder about my purpose in the world. Why are each of us here? What is our purpose in being one of more than 7 billion of our species who inhabit the planet at this moment? Most of us will die having done nothing more profound than procreate to insure the continued survival of the species, which is pretty profound to us humans, maybe not so much in the grand scheme of the universe. What will humanity be like in ten years? In a hundred years? A thousand? How long will Earth continue to support life?  If the human race survives long enough, what will we do when the Sun eventually burns out? Do other life forms exist on other planets? Will we communicate with them some day? Do they have all the answers? Will Earth ultimately matter in the grand scheme of the Universe? IS there a grand scheme? Or is this all one big random occurrence, or a crazy experiment by the creator(s) of the universe? And if universe creators exist, they must live somewhere other than this universe, so where did they come from?

And my biggest question of all: Will humans still be playing the game of golf in 10,000 years? 🙂

My question to you: How and where do you recharge your Spiritual battery?

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