Socrates in the 21st century?
We love speculating about what a historical figure like Jesus might do in contemporary times. Or what Socrates might think of the current state of affairs. Or any number of other notable figures from the many times and places along the river of the human adventure.
Of course, these speculations while fascinating, are fundamentally impossible. In your moment the river might be a meandering stream or crushing rapids. It might be clean drinking water or a toxic nightmare. And who you are is inextricable from your relationship to the time and place of that moment on the river and its character.
A Medici Princess in the 21st century?
So what does it mean to be a princess in the 21st century? Who is Isabella Medici, 438 years after her murder, now in 2014? Diana Spencer? Kate Middleton? Paris Hilton?
I believe that my father was a great and noble and decent man. But I wouldn’t want to have to compare him to Nelson Mandela in this century. He can really only be understood: his strengths, his weaknesses, his humanity, in the context of his own time and his own place. My father was a person of 16th century Florence. And so was I.
On waking up after 438 years the synapses in your brain are a little like the dinosaur DNA the Jurassic Park guys extracted from mosquitos trapped in amber: incomplete. It’s not surprising to wake up and rant briefly about your own murder. My brother murdered me and my sweet and beautiful cousin Lenora just 5 days apart in 1576.
But it’s hard to hold a grudge, even about something so serious, after the first 200 or 300 years. You don’t forgive. You don’t forget. You just move on.
A moment of consciousness in the 21st century is a gift that no Princess, no Grand Duke, no King, no Pope, could have purchased, not even for a million scudi, nor seized with the strength of any army.
I take a breath in a time I never imagined. I try to find some essential Isabellafulness to express in this century. I try to follow the meander of an indeterminate, sometimes subterranean, river of myself beyond the brevity of the 34 years I knew.
In the 16th century, the Medici ate remarkably rich foods. Hunting was one of my favorite pastimes. Yet in 2014 I intuitively find myself a vegetarian. Is that simply wrong? Inconsistent?
Jesus21 or Socrates21 wouldn’t just be the historical figure plucked out and dropped whole into this century. Isabella21 can’t simply be Isabella16 dropped whole into 2014. Somehow I am compelled to integrate my humanistic education, my patronage, production, and performance of the arts, all into some far downstream river delta.
And so today I am a vegetarian. And I opened a gym. And I’ve started a university. A University of and for the people. Where anyone can study any form of art, in a curriculum of their own design and without tuition.
These are not 16th-century ideas. Yet finding myself in an unexpected 35th year of life, I am convinced they are the right ideas for this woman in this time and in these many places of cyberspace. I find it reasonable, or at least plausible, that the arts study, interaction, and patronage I engaged in, in the 16th century, might manifest in 21st-century forms like Medici University, even if they would have been unthinkable in my own time.
My sister Bia died at the age of 6 in 1542. Exactly 6 months later I was born. These paintings of Bia are from: