Leonardo Da Vinci was quite the incredible individual. I was held captive by his work a few weeks ago when we took our high school on a field trip to see a Da Vinci traveling exhibit. It was pretty fun really. You got to play with a lot of his inventions(Sadly, they didn’t let us play with the paintings. I assume that Mona Lisa had already gotten her quota of mustaches drawn on in the last town. C’est la vie.), which really allowed you to see at least partially the mind of a genius. The type of bizarre, radical stuff he came up with wouldn’t be rediscovered for hundreds of years. He came up with ideas for things like: solar power, robots, human flight, some pretty wicked siege defense and attack mechanisms, and cotton candy. Ok…the cotton candy may be a stretch, but the rest is true. The guy was a genius (Which is why I’m certain that he had to have invented the idea of cotton candy before everyone else; it just makes sense.), who was simply ages before his time.
His paintings were pretty awesome to behold as well. They were visually stunning and accurate. (Although I did have somewhat of a disagreement with him on his portrayal of St. John the Baptist. I’m pretty sure that if John the Baptist went without a shirt, it would still seem like he had one on with all the body hair. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking to make me feel better, and I don’t believe the Bible ever specifically mentions it, but I’m sure John the Baptist was a hairy dude. It, like the cotton candy, just makes sense.)
The most intimidating aspect of the exhibit was the realization that Da Vinci was more of an expert at everything he did – which was A LOT – than I am at the best thing that I do. I suppose being the artist in residence of a rich patron does provide more time to sit and become a genius, but even that concession doesn’t bring me much comfort. To understate it horribly, the man was good at a lot of things. And so the question became: what was he? Was he a painter? Architect? Designer? Philosopher? Scientist? (Oh yeah, he used to steal and dissect dead bodies to understand the body better. He wanted to portray them more accurately. He just reeks of over-achievement.) And so much more. As intelligent as he was, I think it would make me feel a bit better if he did have an identity crisis and was not able to answer this question himself. However, I didn’t feel that was the case.
The answer of his identity came to me while reading a students response to the exhibit. It was quite simple really. Leonardo Da Vinci was a mathematician. He saw the world in a specific, mathematical way. And his entire life’s goal was to represent those mathematical principles in whatever way he could – through painting, inventions, diagrams, etc. And since he saw everything as existing from some mathematical principle, he never ran out of ways to represent these principles. All of his creativity and genius flowed from his mathematical understanding of the world. Sure, he was a great many things, but his heart and mind cried out to know the world from a mathematical perspective.
I believe within Da Vinci lies an incredible analogy for the Christian life…