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The period of Italian Renaissance

From the beginning of time, man has tried to explain the reason and purpose of his existence. Throughout history, we find that many have tried to look for answers but none have found the ultimate key. We are only left with more profound questions, each aiming for a deeper understanding of the many facets of humanity. The period of Italian Renaissance, in particular, produced one of the most eloquent works written in history about man’s place in God’s creation and his capacity and perception.

In his Oration on the Dignity of Man, Pico Della Mirandola gives an articulately clever discussion of man as the most wonderfully fortunate among God’s creations. In his work, he relates that humans, through Adam, were given the task of looking over the world and God’s magnificent creatures; to contemplate on His great work, to love its beauty and become its mindful stewards. This is a daunting but very significant task and the fact that it was given to man shows that he is inevitably, God’s most beloved creature.

However, Mirandola argues that this is not what sets us apart from other creatures. God, in His desire for the happiness of man, gave him the freedom of will; to exercise his judgment and fulfill his own desires. This is precisely the most important thing that delineates humanity from all the rest. Pico Della Mirandola exclaims, “Imagine! The great generosity of God! The happiness of man! To man it is allowed to be whatever he chooses to be!

” Such is the immense power given to man that he can freely decide for himself unlike animals who are predetermined to be what they are as soon as they are born. Spiritual beings, too, are destined to unchangeable fate, without even an inkling of choice. Man on the other hand, is given the key to unimaginable possibilities. Whatever he decides and does that is what he becomes; his choices in life determine what he will be in the future. He is given the authority to control his own life, to make decisions and ultimately deal with the appropriate consequences.

Mirandola further asserts, “Whatever seeds each man sows and cultivates will grow and bear him their proper fruit. If these seeds are vegetative, he will be like a plant. If these seeds are sensitive, he will be like an animal. If these seeds are intellectual, he will be an angel and the son of God. ” Man is powerful beyond imagination and in this power lies his ability to understand and view his reason of being; to be able to use his intellect and the gift of wisdom in all things. Freedom of choice, however, puts a big responsibility on man.

It is a power not to be abused nor ignored. Man should never let it turn his own fate into a disastrous waste. God never meant for it to harm us but to create in humans a sense of active formation; a means to help us make more of the gift of life. Mirandola urges us to become the best individuals that we can be; to contemplate, think and use our reason. He persuades us “not be content with mediocrity, but rather strive after the highest and expend all our strength in achieving it. ”

Moreover, freedom of will is meant for us to achieve great things and most importantly, to achieve our ultimate goal of being one with God; and as God is superior to all things, we are elevated above all His creations. God as the creator is also the God who becomes our one true end. We become far more important, comparable to none of God’s creatures. As Mirandola forcefully insists, “Let us disdain earthly things, and despise the things of heaven, and, judging little of what is in the world, fly to the court beyond the world and next to God.

In that court, as the mystic writings tell us, are the Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones in the foremost places; let us not even yield place to them, the highest of the angelic orders, and not be content with a lower place, imitate them in all their glory and dignity. If we choose to, we will not be second to them in anything. ” From Mirandola’s work, we witness man’s great capabilities; his ability to think and think well, his ability to become what he chooses to be. More so, man is revealed in his capacity to rationalize not only through the world’s inanities and simplicities but also through profound ideas of existence and spirituality.

Truly, the article draws attention to the splendor of human nature and highlights the freedom of will as the reason and means for realizing man’s purpose. In this, Mirandola has forcefully succeeded. He triumphs in his arguments with the clarity and fluency of his thought and the truthfulness and fluidity of his prose. Moreover, his work itself, powerful in its words and ideas, becomes testament to what he portrays of man and the wonderful abilities given to him; a creative proof of man’s unending quest for purpose and meaning.

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