The Da Vinci Mode
By Gary Singh
LAST WEEK saw the opening of "Leonardo: 500 Years Into the Future," a comprehensive awe-inspiring glimpse into the mind of the ultimate Renaissance man, showing at the Tech Museum for the next three months. San Jose is the only place in the United States where this exhibit is being shown and you will need at least two hours to fully take in all the life-size models, artifacts, drawings, displays, interactive machines, explanations, video and scrupulous documentation of Da Vinci's ideas and inventions. Pick your interest: geometry, anatomy, mechanical engineering, painting, drawing, cosmology, the physics of vibration or the Golden Proportion—Da Vinci endeavored in all of the above. I can safely say that each one of us who were blessed with a preview tour of the entire exhibit by its curator—world-renowned Leonardo scholar Paolo Galluzzi of the Institute and Museum of the History of Science in Florence, Italy—departed the museum that day utterly inspired to implement Leonardo's thinking while engaging in whatever exploits we had on the plate for the rest of the afternoon.
So that's what I did, and I revisited Michael J. Gelb's heroic book, How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day. After years of studying Leonardo, Gelb conjured up what he calls the Seven Da Vincian Principles, that is, seven simple but essential elements of Leonardo-style thinking, named in Italian, for folks to use in their everyday lives. For example, Principle One, Curiosita, refers to "an insatiably curious approach to life and an unrelenting quest for continuous learning." Principle Two, Dimonstrazione, concentrates on testing knowledge through experience and being willing to learn from mistakes. With Sensazione, number three, I can learn to use all five senses to help enliven my everyday experience, whether it's how I view an exhibit at the Tech or how I then deal with the variety of interesting sounds and aromas while walking down Santa Clara Street toward City Hall.
Which, of course, is where I wound up next, since later that day a press conference transpired regarding the California Transportation Commission's awarding of $239 million for the BART extension to San Jose. Given the dubious mess that this issue has recently become, and since all that remains is whether the public will vote for a second tax to help pay for it, I shall now contextualize it with Gelb's Fourth Da Vincian Principle, Sfumato, which means, literally, "Going up in smoke." Gelb adds that Sfumato includes "a willingness to embrace ambiguity, paradox and uncertainty." A distinctive trait of a highly creative person, he writes, is to have "confusion endurance," and make himself more at home with the unknown—pretty much the scenario with the proposed BART tax. Also, the concept of whole-brain thinking, Gelb's Fifth Principle, Arte/Scienza, definitely needs to be applied here if this project is ever going to work.
And then it was off to a reception at the newly renovated San Jose Women's Club building at 75 S. 11th St., a 1920s landmark ballroom and banquet facility that has now been totally revived. A major event takes place here on Tuesday, Oct. 28, when Club Quake, the fan club of the San Jose Earthquakes Major League Soccer team, holds its end-of-regular-season party. This year the Quakes have gone from the doldrums of a demoralized bottom-of-the-table expansion franchise to a serious and confident playoff contender in just a few months. Their midfield is led by Francisco Lima, formerly of AS Roma, one of the elite clubs in Italy. At 37, the dude is in better shape than most players half his age. On the pitch, he epitomizes Gelb's sixth Da Vincian Principle, that of Corporalita—the cultivation of grace, ambidexterity, fitness and poise.
As one would expect, the seventh and last of Gelb's Da Vincian principles is that of Connessione, "a recognition of and appreciation for the interconnectedness of all things"—a perfect way to summarize and conclude this week's column. I thank Leonardo for his inspiration and I say, Arrivederci fino a settimana prossima.