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Regaining Wonder

Photo by Hassan OUAJBIR on Unsplash
Photo by Hassan OUAJBIR on Unsplash

I just finished reading the book, Leonardo Da Vinci by Walter Isaacson, and started his other biography on Albert Einstein. If you want a great read and something that will challenge you, I highly suggest either of the two. The thing that has really captured me while reading about these two amazing lives is that both men shared something similar that was a huge attribute in assisting their world-shaking achievements. If you think I’m going to say it was their intellect, that’s not it. Obviously the intellectual capacity of Einstein was so awe-inspiring that his brain was removed after his death without his family’s knowledge in order for it to be studied.

But it wasn’t the intellect of these two men who lived more than 400 years apart from each other that gripped me. It was their imagination. It was their curiosity. Their child-like curiosity that drew them to sit and ponder things that most grown-ups stopped thinking about long ago. Leonardo questioned the most intricate things with a blazing and insatiable curiosity. One thing he tasked himself with doing was to explain the tongue of a woodpecker. (By the way, when the tongue retracts back in, it actually wraps around the woodpeckers brain in order to protect the brain. The pounding pressure a woodpecker exerts is ten times what it would take to kill a human.)

Why would he question that? Leonardo da Vinci, the master painter of the Italian Renaissance who created the most famous painting of all time, the Mona Lisa. He also went into ridiculous detail explaining and sketching the way in which birds take flight. I mean obsessive observation, like recognizing the flap of the wings being an upstroke or a downstroke and how they lean forward just before taking off. You see some of these observations come to life in his paintings like his fresco of The Last Supper. The apostle to the far left is leaning forward as he begins to stand just after Jesus delivers the news that someone there is about to sell him out. When you think of a painting, you tend to think of something as still but not when you look at Leonardo’s work. There’s movement in something that should be still. His observation of the world around him and his deep curiosity and wonder are what contributed hugely to the masterworks he created that have survived in levels beyond fame for almost 500 years. That’s probably longer than a viral post on Twitter or Facebook will last.

Einstein discovered the Theory of Relativity with thought experiments as he sat in his office working a job as a patent clerk. Greatness is a process. Amazing things take time. Einstein worked a menial job while he embarked on these thought experiments that would lay the foundation for modern physics as well as put him in place as one of the most famous people to ever live. Thought experiments! Things he saw in his head! (And by the way, he was good at math as a kid. That’s a weird old wives tale that he wasn’t. He perfected integral calculus by 14. Damn.)

A major component connecting a couple of the greatest minds to ever exist was imagination. The way these two men would sit and wonder about things. Their imagination caused them to believe things that were never thought to be believed before. Like what if man could fly? Or what if you could travel on a beam of light?

There’s a verse in the Bible that says, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” When I think of becoming like a child, I think of curiosity, seeing all things as new, and of course wondering. Socrates said that “wonder is the beginning of wisdom.

Dreamers see the world as experience. Fresh and new experience. Dreamers see life as meant to be lived. Dreamers romanticize daily experience. Dreamers will see something new within that which is ancient. Dreamers dream dreams that are not regulated by the rules of being an adult. Only dreamers can change the world. Because they can see that which has never been seen.


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