The Man who wanted to know Everything
It was the year 1460 Anno Domini, when a man set out to learn about himself; the first modern mind, perhaps the greatest ever. A man, whose thirst for knowledge was unparalleled. A mind that knew no bounds. It is very hard to humble me; harder still to make me believe there is something I can not do. Despite this, at the outset, I know I will never be anywhere close to the genius that this world witnessed in the corporeal form of a Man, who wanted to know everything: Leonardo Da Vinci.
This memory of the great man was triggered by a documentary on him that I happened to watch a few days back; it has been haunting me ever since. The following are excerpts from a most humbling and moving documentary on Leonardo by BBC. These may not quotes by the great mind himself but they are so beautiful and reflective of the genius of Leonardo that I choose to ascribe them to him.
“I will do things no one in the past has dared to do. I will think new thoughts and bring new things into being.”
“Do not pity the humble painter, he can be the lord of all things, whatever exists in the universe, he has first in his mind, then in his hand.”
“Do you see how the eye embraces the beauty of the whole world? It is the window of the soul, it informs the arts, it is the foundation of science, it measures the distance of the stars, it discovers the elements, it is the inventor of architecture and the divine art of painting.”
“A bird should be able to do what its nature dictates, so should a man; if he has the mind to take wings. Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the world with your eyes faced skywards, for there you have been, and there you shall always long to be.”
“Most men can’t make the journey they need to take to find out the truth. But if you want to follow where the light of truth leads, you have to get through.”
“While I thought I was learning how to live, I was really been learning how to die. As a day well spent brings happy sleep, so a life well used brings contended death.”
“Do not pity the humble painter, he can be the lord of all things, whatever exists in the universe, he has first in his mind, then in his hand. By his art, he may be called the grand child of God.”
These profound words and many more, left me back at the same place where I have been several times. It is almost a season for me to come and revisit these thoughts:
Is it really possible for a man to do so much in a lifetime? Is there a way that I can live my life and know anywhere as close? Are these questions of any significance? What is the worth of knowledge and where does it fit in the over all scheme of things?
If I could boil my life, the distillate would be this: The Man who wanted to know everything. And yet, the realization that I would never know everything is one that is very hard to over look. It can be greatly and in my opinion correctly argued that a mind at rest understands that the greatest knowledge is that we know nothing. Yet, I wish to know all there is to know. All the lies, all the truths, all the world’s great promises and the deceits, all the love stories and those of hate and of all the great men and those who were utterly insignificant. I know naught whether a man’s quest for his personal reasons is of any consequence, but then I do not know if there is anything of consequence. Should a life then be spent in pursuit of greater good for the greatest number? Or should it be spent in one’s own pursuit of euphoria? I am one of those who believe every man pursuing his own euphoria will lead to the greatest good for the greatest number. Nothing phenomenal about the observation, probably a restatement of the ideas presented through several centuries by many great men.
From this perspective, we can see that we need to find out what way and where to does the pursuit of our euphoria takes us. And it is extremely likely that I shall spend the rest of my life trying to find an answer to this question. Yet, whatever it is that the path, the process and the destination (or the absence of one) holds for me, it shall be about learning about myself. And I may never finish the journey, rather in all probability, I will not; but I shall consider it worthwhile to have had the privilege of being given the chance and having taken the road.
I know the answers I seek, I don’t know the questions I must ask to get those answers. And the questions that I do know, I have no clue about what answers should I regard as the correct ones.
I Will let these thoughts be. Maybe the sleep will de-fog my brain. But as I turn to lay myself to sleep; all I can think about is: “was this a day well spent?”