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Leonardo Da Vinci

Leonardo Da Vinci

Jenny: Joe Maddon, former manager of the Cubs, is gone (I miss ya, Joe!), but Joe loved one of my favorite books, Walter Isaacson’s Leonardo Da Vinci. Joe was inspired to choose his 2016 theme “Putting the art back into the game” based on Isaacson’s book.

This pandemic might be just the right time to tackle a tome like this.

Here’s three reasons this book is worth reading now:

1) Da Vinci reminds us that there’s potential in each of us to be successful despite what life throws at us.

Da Vinci was lucky to be born a bastard, otherwise he would have been required to follow in his father’s footsteps as a notary. Instead, he was allowed to be a freethinking, creative, cool cat who followed his own pursuits. Another upside to being born out of wedlock was that he was NOT sent to Latin school so he was mainly self-taught through his insatiable curiosity and experimentation which led him to have an incredible range of experiences culminating in the Last Supper and the Mona Lisa. Not bad.

2) A meaningful life is derived through curiosity:

His scientific explorations informed his art. As Isaacson writes:

“As he (Da Vinci) aged, he pursued his scientific inquiries not just to serve his art but out of a joyful instinct to fathom the profound beauties of creation. When he groped for a theory of why the sky appears blue, it was not simply to inform his painting. His curiosity was pure, personal, and delightfully obsessive.”

3) Genius is cultivated and developed, not just something you’re born with:

Da Vinci was a genius.

But as Isaacson reminds us: “We should be wary of that word. Slapping the ‘genius’ label on Leonardo oddly minimizes him by making it seem as if he were touched by lightning.…In fact, Leonardo’s genius was a human one, wrought by his own will and ambition. (Are you watching the Michael Jordan documentary???? You’ll get a feel for why this point is so important!) It did not come from being the divine recipient…His genius was of the type we can understand, even take lessons from. It was based on skills we can aspire to improve in ourselves, such as curiosity and intense observation.”

This book is a marvel to read. And if there’s a fourth reason to read it it would be that Leo dressed in a fun way, was a great conversationalist, and was kind to animals. Oops, that’s six. I would like to have known him!

The #1 New York Times bestseller

"A powerful story of an exhilarating mind and life...a study in creativity: how to define it, how to achieve it." --The New Yorker

"Vigorous, insightful." --The Washington Post

"A masterpiece." --San Francisco Chronicle

"Luminous." --The Daily Beast

He was history's most creative genius. What secrets can he teach us?

The author of the acclaimed bestsellers Steve Jobs, Einstein, and Benjamin Franklin brings Leonardo da Vinci to life in this exciting new biography.

Based on thousands of pages from Leonardo's astonishing notebooks and new discoveries about his life and work, Walter Isaacson weaves a narrative that connects his art to his science. He shows how Leonardo's genius was based on skills we can improve in ourselves, such as passionate curiosity, careful observation, and an imagination so playful that it flirted with fantasy.

He produced the two most famous paintings in history, The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa. But in his own mind, he was just as much a man of science and technology. With a passion that sometimes became obsessive, he pursued innovative studies of anatomy, fossils, birds, the heart, flying machines, botany, geology, and weaponry. His ability to stand at the crossroads of the humanities and the sciences, made iconic by his drawing of Vitruvian Man, made him history's most creative genius.

His creativity, like that of other great innovators, came from having wide-ranging passions. He peeled flesh off the faces of cadavers, drew the muscles that move the lips, and then painted history's most memorable smile. He explored the math of optics, showed how light rays strike the cornea, and produced illusions of changing perspectives in The Last Supper. Isaacson also describes how Leonardo's lifelong enthusiasm for staging theatrical productions informed his paintings and inventions.

Leonardo's delight at combining diverse passions remains the ultimate recipe for creativity. So, too, does his ease at being a bit of a misfit: illegitimate, gay, vegetarian, left-handed, easily distracted, and at times heretical. His life should remind us of the importance of instilling, both in ourselves and our children, not just received knowledge but a willingness to question it--to be imaginative and, like talented misfits and rebels in any era, to think different.

Publication Date: 
October 17, 2017