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Leonardo da Vinci: A Model

  • October 9, 2017
  • 3-Minute Read

We all know who Leonardo da Vinci was, he was a renaissance polymath and artist. People have talked about him so much that his name became commonplace. Movies have been made about him and profited from his mysteries. Books have been written, and continue to be written. He became just a celebrity for most of us. But some of us try to understand him.

He became a model as to how you can do better at this ‘humanity’ thing. He was a master at using the grey goo between his ears, which sums up everything that humans do different from primates, besides touching some fingers and stuff.

Leonardo wasn't more than human, he was not an alien as some might say, or even a billionaire, the bastard didn't even have a fixed job—yes, he was conceived out of wedlock. Imagine him with internet access, perhaps he would have been a Generation Z model instead. We don't know.

The thing is, he lived in a way that maximized his brain potential, essentially the more things he knew, the more things he could know. And the more unrelated the things he knew the more related they seemed to be. How? Through creativity, of course.

For example, if you are an expert in human anatomy, and then proceed to learn engineering, you can mix and match your knowledge to come up with more ergonomic designs for stuff. If you are a psychologist you can become a great salesman too... Neat, right?

For the Universe there is no such thing as ‘math’, or ‘physics’, there is just information. We only categorize knowledge to make it easier to understand, but we often times let ourselves be limited by these labels, and have only a dull understanding of other topics outside our field of “expertise”—also called comfort zone.

Take everything Leonardo did, all his knowledge, he used all of it in everything he did, the anatomy of the lips, the beauty of a flower, he used it all to inspire the nobility of the time—and to separate them of their gold... ooh, crafty...

Page showing Leonardo's study of a foetus in the womb (1510)

Studying what he did at the time was dangerous—people who went about digging up graves weren't very well viewed at the time—so he had to do much of his research in secrecy. But that didn't stop him, and we are the better for it—consider how many physicians his work inspired. Of course, times changed and now we have people who do that, so you don't have to—perhaps you should put the shovel down now.

Take the foetus in the picture, what purpose in studying it did Leonardo have other than to satisfy his curiosity? If he had published his works on anatomy at the time he would have changed the course of science, except he didn't. Perhaps he didn't want the recognition, or perhaps he preferred his head attached to his neck, we will never truly know. But it was likely the latter, of course.

His determination to learn about the world around him is the paradigm of what being human is about. Our brains did not only evolve so we could plan our own next meal, but so we could do more, change our surroundings, make people's lives better. And to do that we must learn to see the world in different perspectives. 

Which, Leonardo did.

Leonardo was the most human human of the renaissance, the world was his oyster.