“Learning is the only thing the mind never exhausts, never fears, and never regrets.”—Leonardo Da Vinci (a lifelong learner)
Leonardo Da Vinci had one of the greatest minds in history. Usually when most non-artists think of art, we can picture the charming Mona Lisa or simply our thoughts lead to Da Vinci. Although the greatest with paint, Leonardo Da Vinci was much more than just an amazing artist. He was an anatomist and a botanist, an inventor, a creator, a musician, a sculptor, an architect, a teacher and much much more. Of all the amazing personalities accredited formally to the great master, one of the most profound trait that Da Vinci had acquired (that really helped him do all of his other amazing work) was that he was just an incredibly voracious learner.
This is what we can learn from his learning:
- Insatiable curiosity about everything: Leonardo had an immense appetite to know more. We can see it from the major fields of observations he made in his notebooks. Ranging from observations and understanding of how birds fly and why and how it rains—to the water ripples causing a chain of successive widening circles when you throw a rock in the stationary water of a pond and the anatomy of a horse, show that Leonardo was interested to learn about everything. And being interested wasn’t enough, he made his own experimentation drills and satisfied his curiosity by understanding through his wonderful illustrative observations.
Such varied studies allowed Da Vinci to better put forth his paintings and moreover get a better world-view understanding of how things worked and apply all that information in a combined state in his various other works as a Renaissance individual.
- Combine imagination with facts: Combining imagination with facts, art with science, intellect with real information, left brain and the right brain is what led to Leonardo Da Vinci attaining such great understanding and solutions to important problems. His masterpieces on horses for example are a result of the immense study of horses made by Leonardo. And the Vitruvian Man with the “perfect body” according to him was a mixture of great observations of people around Leonardo, a thorough learning of anatomy; and of course, intellectual thinking and imagination. Blending the two opposite ways of thinking led to one great apprehensive view of the world. And we can see through his notes and drawings how distinguished and succinct his ideas were.
- Learning is limitless and a process: Learning for Leonardo Da Vinci never stopped. He taught himself Latin when he was forty-two. Even at his deathbed it’s believed that he was trying to make adjustments to his so famous piece of art the ‘Mona Lisa’ and trying to learn and study and make observations by finding the roots of his sickness. He never stopped learning and he never wanted to stop learning. At the end, he still wasn’t satisfied with the historical life he led, expressing in grief, “I have offended against God and men by failing to practice my art as I should have done”. After all, it’s important to note that Leonardo didn’t force himself to learn anything, he had a desire to learn and so he did learn that which was intriguing to him only. As he states through little experience maybe: “Study without desire spoils the memory, and it retains nothing that it takes in.”
It’s difficult to match the level of Leonardo Da Vinci but by applying these learning methods originally, I believe we can get a better understanding of the world and the beautiful problems in it.
Book recommendation on the Da Vinci-an principles: Think Like Da Vinci by Michael J. Gelb