Oh Leo!


I finally got around to buying Leonardo Da Vinci by Walter Isaacson. I would say I started reading it but that is perhaps a bit misleading as I'm an audiobook junkie and recently began the art of listening... to this fascinating story. It's told by actor Alfred Molina and what a difference a top notch narrator can make in bringing a book to life. Hats off to his Italian accent and excellent and engaging delivery so far.

I'm in the early chapters but already hooked. Why Leo? I was a big fan of the fictionalized story of the Renaissance man's life in Florence as told in the TV series Da Vinci's Demons. I realize, especially now after starting Isaacson's tome, just how off the map they get. Nevertheless, it roped me into the life of this great art and technical genius (a word I don't use lightly - for instance, sorry Walt but I do not think Steve Jobs was a "genius" just a master product designer and godfather of the ugly forced obsolescence movement).

A better backstory to my sudden interest in Da Vinci is that I went to the British Library and saw his notebooks in an historical exhibition they are hosting. The scribblings literally jumped out at me. No joke, I felt an energy shoot out from them and was inspired for the rest of the week.

Anyway, so far my takeaway from the biography is that Leo was so brimming with ideas that he left many of his works unfinished. And for that I am relieved. Nobody should have that much talent without at least one tiny flaw. So he was easily distracted and I can definitely relate to that.

I also love this strange story from his childhood of him believing a bird swooped down and put its beak in his mouth, if I'm remembering it correctly. Apparently Sigmund Freud cited it as an example of phallic symbolism in a young boy (ah, that Siggy and his phallic symbols). That made me laugh out loud.

Isaacson compares the time of the Renaissance to today and I guess there are some parallels with inter-disciplinary work but a big difference to me is the level of white noise and distraction we witness day in and day out. I don't believe someone with Da Vinci's polypath sensibilities and raw brilliance (but with a distractable personality) could have completed a ton of projects. Perhaps I'm skewing negative here but I find that genius blossoms when simplicity is embraced. Less voices, opinions and chatter. More connecting to one's own intuition.

Isaacson says that as he researched for the book he found himself seeing life through Leo's eyes — becoming fascinated by small miracles in nature, etc. This is my hope for my own reading experience.

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