The Renaissance Man

The Renaissance Man

A Story by Roy

This was a submission I had to make for a course on self-realization. The course is called "Shodh Yatra", which means the journey to cleanse one's mind.


“A man can do all things if he will.”

Leon Battista Alberti

Who says that one needs to have only a handful of interests in life? It is true that often a man who tries to juggle with more than a couple of interests simultaneously ends up, at best, being a jack of all. The reason attributed is the loss of focus a singular object of attention, for which the expertise development in all fields gets retarded. The question to ask is: is it so ordained? What if a man is so likened to all his interests that he loses track of the world around him when he embarks on any endeavour concerning any of them?

There’s a certain word that I have retrieved from Merriam-Webster after my last Shodh Yatra submission: polymath. Messrs. Merriam and Webster opine that a polymath is a person with encyclopaedic knowledge. It embodies the spirit of Renaissance humanism which believes that the human mind is limitless in its capacity for assimilating and applying knowledge, something that the contemporary man, in his busy life, has ceased to admit. Probably because history has few examples that help him believe. And one of them is the man that I look up to for inspiration: Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci.

Born of a notary and a peasant woman in 1452, Leonardo exhibited a flair for the arts from an early age. Lore speaks of a painted shield, one of his early creations and initially crafted for a peasant, eventually became a prized possession of the Duke of Milan. At the mere age of fourteen, he gained apprenticeship in Verrochio’s workshop, considered to be one of the finest in Florence. It was here that his interest across multiple faculties was nurtured and his skills honed. During the years in the workshop (1466-76), Leonardo collaborated with Verrochio in several of the latter’s creations, the most notable being The Baptism of Jesus. Such was the exquisiteness of Leonardo’s work in the Baptism of Jesus that Verrochio decided to retire from painting thereafter.

It is, however, by the professional life of Leonardo da Vinci that the world knows the legend. Not only did he rise among his contemporaries as a renowned artist, but he came to be revered as a military architect, cartographer, scientist and innovator extraordinaire. There is no one field of interest which he did not excel at. His excellence in painting is obvious from The Last Supper and Mona Lisa. His exploits in science and anatomy are evident from his journals, the most famous entry being that of The Vitruvian Man. The most notable mention of Leonardo’s engineering prowess stems from his design of a proposed Golden Horn bridge in Istanbul, which, if constructed, would have become the longest bridge in the medieval world. And the inventor in him laid out plans for giving the medieval man wings of flight, through his designs of gliders and even a helicopter.

 It is true that Leonardo was the product of an era wherein the intellectual society of Europe was replete with the spirit of Renaissance. It is the same age that produced other multifaceted geniuses as Michelangelo and, later, Galileo Galilei. However, Leonardo stands out as a genius who excelled at very diverse faculties: someone who a person like me would be inspired by. For I have interest in poetry, music, drama, cinema, physics and, now, finance. I cannot claim to be expert at even one of these, let alone all. But I cannot choose which field intrigues me more, even at gunpoint. I do aspire to develop my skills in all of these, and hence I look on the life and exploits of Leonardo da Vinci to gain inspiration. For it is both necessary and sufficient for a genius to make one major breakthrough in life, but a man with diverse interests must make many. And Leonardo da Vinci is, perhaps, the brightest beacon, in this regard, to have ever gone into the annals of history.


© 2011 Roy

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Added on July 11, 2011
Last Updated on July 11, 2011
Tags: Self-realization




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