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Even the purest stream of water can only be colored by the depth it fills; not by the length fixed in an eye. In other words, it is the quality of life and not the “timeline” that truly matters. It’s a similar principle that animated the pursuits of Leonardo Da Vinci, the celebrated Italian polymath and paragon of the Renaissance Man prototype. Leonardo’s diverse endeavors – an artist, inventor, writer, scientist, and more importantly, an insatiable learner – embody an innate desire, more akin to a thirst to drink life to the lees.
Da Vinci was rarely seen without a sketchbook; he took a considerable measure of finesse to participate in life fully, a belief I suggest that one must imbibe and perpetuate. Passage of time, in the framework of history, has only rendered his insights more germane and consummate.
Seeing Life as a Grand Canvas
Julian Bell, in his intimate account of da Vinci’s life, depicted him as a conjuror of ideas. Envisioning life as a grand canvas for weaving dreams and aspirations, Leonardo evinced our ability to influence our fate consciously. Philosophically akin to thinkers like Albert Einstein and Aristotle, he saw wisdom as a sphere wherein to place one’s aspirations, rather than a tower to ascend.
Our potential to explore, to express, and to evolve hinges on our willingness to unshackle ourselves from conventional boundaries. Living correctly, in da Vinci’s view, implies a persistent quest for knowledge, wisdom, and self-development, much like Plato’s belief in the importance of self-knowledge.
Curiosity: The Prime Mover
Indeed, da Vinci was an embodiment of perpetual learning, a tenant also professed by modern thinkers such as Tim Ferriss and Maria Popova. He championed curiosity as the precursor of innovation, urging us to nurture an insatiable thirst for life’s mysteries. As Ferriss elucidates in his blog, the curiosity for culture and cognition can often be a more significant determinant of success than conventional education.
Da Vinci’s fervor for curiosity is summarized in one of his enduring quotes:
“Study the science of art. Study the art of science. Develop your senses — especially learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.”
Embracing Nature as the Ideal Mentor
Da Vinci studied nature religiously – even meticulously. One could argue it was his first and foremost teacher. He pursued understanding of the natural world as a philosopher does truth or a priest divine wisdom. A testament to the profound words of legendary physicist Albert Einstein, that one could learn all about physics just by studying the patterns in nature.
While success and fame are fleeting and often fickle companions, meaning, and fulfilment are the ongoing symphony that underlie a life well-lived, as exemplified by Leonardo da Vinci. So, take Leonardo’s wisdom to heart: live passionately, lean into curiosity, learn ceaselessly, and never cease to paint on the grand canvas of life.