More poetry of the wee hours:
I've done a lot of thinking about the destructive power of the male ego, but in Florence I had to give arrogance and egomania a second look.
Florence was the heart of the Renaissance, home to the super-rich Medici family and workshop of Michelangelo, daVinci, and other art world luminaries. My simplistic perspective is that great art and architecture flourished because the Medicis (like the Popes in Rome) wanted to leave their everlasting mark on the world -- churches, sculpture, palaces, paintings. As the money flowed, so grew the artistic careers. Lots of money emboldened the artists to become innovators and to create on a grand scale.
Florence was swollen with big egos
Florence was swollen with big egos, all in competition to create amazing masterpieces. But they weren't slapdash. The big egos were joined with intellectual ferment -- new theories, new methods, new philosophies. There was a wonderful breaking lose of ideas, which led to a lasting legacy.
Being here makes me wonder -- in other cultures, in other times, the ruling class and the intelligentsia combine to create empires and run wars. Was Renaissance Italy a fluke? Or is it simply the flipside of my theory that what makes the human race horrible is what also makes it wonderful. Our capability for good stems from the same source of our capability for evil. If huge egos can destroy the world, they will also be the ones to save it.