Plague, Academia, and The Yearning for a Neo-Renaissance

“Tomorrow will be better.” “And what if it’s not?” “Then you say it again tomorrow. Because it might be. You never know, right? At some point, tomorrow will be better.”
-Morgan Matson

Imagine. The plague has ended. You sit in your favourite café in that gorgeous city you always wanted to study in. The aroma of baked goods and beverages waft through the air and embrace you. You sit by the slightly fogged window and, every now and then, shiver some when the door chimes open for a new customer. It is fall and you are peaceful. Your fingers type away on your laptop or lace through the cream leaves of your recently discovered hardcover treasure from the city library. The warmth of your caffeine cup puts you at ease and light chatter muffles into the background as you dissolve yourself into the spaces between the words. You are at peace. You are happy.

While this may seem like a fragment out of a fiction novel, it really is the simplest of moments in its essence; a very real and tangible experience that one can have. A moment when penned down to the nitty gritty of a seconds worth of emotion or feeling, becomes something so beautiful, so magical- it feels almost unreal. Especially in a time like this. But it is this, this depth of feeling, that has driven people for eons. It is this that has ignited the world of Dark Academia.

Now you tell me two years ago that my first article for a school magazine would be remotely related to studies and I would have laughed in your face. But alas, times have changed and so, here we are, trying to please an audience. Well, that is if this gets posted. So, sit tight, fellow humans, as we venture into this small lesson on history, communities and aesthetics – and hope that I, running on barely a few hours of sleep, do not bore you.

Dark Academia – for those of you lovelies who live under a rock – generally revolves around a passion for learning anything and everything, from literature to all forms of arts to history and psychology and all branches of science. The ‘dark’ in the title sets you up for beautifully gothic moods like autumn evenings, black coffee and Victorian architecture. For those that partake in the community – sometimes without knowing that they are – find themselves in a state of wanderlust for far off lands that hold an entirely different world within, a longing to sit in the oldest library and drowning themselves in books about civilizations long forgotten and languages long dead.

This vast concept takes multiple forms such as an aesthetic lifestyle or a community of academics who identify with Tumblr as their ‘second home’, while it also comes to life in literary works, both modern and classical – most of which were the roots that helped it grow – and has begun to impact the lives of many. Take Dead Poets Society, for example. A brilliant read and a beautiful movie (all credits to Robin Williams) which also gave rise to a movement of rebellion against conventional authoritarian methods of teaching, romanticized learning, and encouraged stepping away from the mundane onto a journey of self-discovery.

Works both from before and after this literary piece have continued to bring these themes into light. The Renaissance, the Romantics, the Gothics. One movement after another, writers, theorists, philosophers, academics, all playing some of the most important roles in the way society shifted and evolved through the years, greatly impacted the way people in a common era thought and felt and responded to the circumstances their specific time periods presented them with.

Our era, our common circumstance, this global plague that haunts all of us, presents us with this moment of direness, this great need to find and romanticize, to turn the mundane laze into ‘every moment counts’, to seek knowledge, to make aware. To want to make a change within and without.

Don Quixote once said, “When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? Perhaps to be too practical is madness. To surrender dreams – this may be madness. Too much sanity may be madness – and maddest of all: to see life as it is, not as it should be.”

‘To see life as it is, not as should be.’ Maddening. To want to settle for anything less than wonder, less than the world you want yourself to be in. There is a reason all the dead people of the world fought, through words, through swords, through pens, through voices, through whatever it is that they could find; they couldn’t settle for a world any less than what they thought to be a ‘good’ world.

It is no lie that none were perfect. That most of the spotlight fell onto privileged white men and rarely were minorities ever provided a space to be but it did not mean they didn’t exist, that they did not run their own movements, that they aren’t remembered and glorified today.

To quote Sappho herself, an Archaic Greek poetess, “Someone will remember us, I say. Even if in another time.” And she was right.

While the world may not be perfect, the fight to make it must remain endless, and Dark Academia, as a concept, as a lifestyle, has helped bring people together from all over the world to strive towards learning from the past and making their lives a little bit better, a day at a time. To feel a little stronger, to fight a little harder, ‘to know more thoroughly, better and more.’

For tomorrow will be better.

Wania Sadiq
TLC Writer

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