There’s something I encountered in class one day, an idea that somewhat piqued my interest at first. I chose, of my own free will, to investigate minimally further just to satisfy that interest. So much work for a disappointing climax, and in writing, a shameful climax is the last thing one wants to experience. I first crossed paths with it in Art History. The tale—if you want to know the details—goes somewhat regularly, so no surprises.
The Seven da Vincian Principles: if this at all rings a bell, the following seven words might mean something. If this concept is an enlightenment, I’m happy to include their definitions for you:
Curiosità: an insatiably curious approach to life and an unrelenting quest for continuous learning.
Dimostrazione: a commitment to test knowledge through experience, persistence, and a willingness to learn from mistakes.
Sensazione: the continual refinement of the senses, especially sight, as the means to enliven experience.
Sfumato: (literally “going up in smoke”) a willingness to embrace ambiguity, paradox, and uncertainty.
Arte/Scienza: the development of the balance between science and art, logic and imagination. “Whole-brain” thinking.
Corporalita: the cultivation of grace, ambidexterity, fitness, and poise.
Connessione: a recognition and appreciation for the interconnectedness of all things and phenomena. Systems thinking.
The assignment was brief and not nearly as difficult as half of the things in school. It was completed, turned in, and received within a week’s time; by then I had already drifted my thoughts on to current problems, what ever they were at the time. It wasn’t until class actually began anything concerning da Vinci’s work when these seven principles decided to creep back up in my head and spur me into half-hearted action. Here is the concept, and immediately after reading it I closed Firefox/Internet Explorer/What Ever.
How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci
In all my brutal teen honesty, I don’t want to think like the Renaissance Man. I never have, I doubt I ever will, and for two reasons.
I want to think like myself and my characters only, and maybe the occasional act of empathy for my fellows. No where in the near future do I see da Vinci as being a tool for my own publication. (Half of that because I find little possibility in my being published in the near future anyway.) So, in that sense, there’s no need for me to want to think like him, and there is little obligation. Thinking with the mind of a man who could sketch up flying machine schematics or draw completely anatomically accurate human figures would end my nights in bed with a cup of Advil and more water than usual. I just don’t have the capacity, and I find it hard to believe many people really do.
Secondly, it is easy to become corrupt by either the public’s opinion or one’s own, and in this light, the effect of thinking like the Renaissance Man may not turn out to be so beneficial after all, as the people introducing this concept might suggest. The likelihood of becoming overconfident in our abilities (which we teenagers will do) is high. As if we need more encouragement to consider ourselves amazing. And reflected in our characters, little is more annoying in a tale than Mary Sue, her twin brother Marty, and their neighbor Gary Stu. The road from the Renaissance Man (talented in every single area of study and capable of everything) to today’s Gary Stu (all-around perfect character with no flaws) is a short trip. Don’t even have to make a left turn for that one.
I suppose this is a decent time to spring an honest, non-rhetorical question upon you, dear reader. What did you think when you first encountered the Seven da Vincian Principles and their suggestion, either in this blog or elsewhere? As an adult, would you consider it easy to be influenced by this? Would you want have the capacity for a mind like da Vinci?
Posted by Drew Taylor.