By now you may have guessed that Leonardo Da Vinci is one of my favorite historical characters. One reason for that is that I have been blessed to see some of his originals. Seen firsthand, they have a power and beauty that just takes your breath away.
There is a Leonardo silverpoint in the British Museum in London. It's located just off one of the main galleries -- which, incredibly enough, has 28 Rembrandts hanging in it. In a tiny room tucked away in a corner of the gallery, you can sit on a simple little bench and bask in the wonder of a silverpoint drawing sealed in a special atmosphere behind a glass partition and kept in dim light to preserve it.
Several times, I've spent more than an hour sitting there, just marveling at how anyone could have created just beauty with nothing more than two human hands.
It occurred to me that if Leonardo could create such beauty, and could also design the machines he did, he also must have had something to say worth hearing. So I went looking.
I found I had guessed correctly. Leonardo had a lot to say, so much that I can't include more than a small part of it here. Because he wrote as a man of his day, I've paraphrased some of these sayings to make them more palatable to the modern ear.
Here they are:
On experience: Experience is never wrong, but we are wrong when we place too much weight on it.
On learning: Just as eating something unappetizing fails to satisfy, studying something unpalatable teaches nothing.
On painting: He who merely copies what he sees is like a mirror which reflects what is before it with no idea what it is.
On philosophers: Instead of boasting that you understand nature, you would be better off trying to understand yourself.
On possessions: He who possesses the most is most fearful of loss.
On self-deception: The greatest deceptions we suffer lie in our opinions of ourselves.
On solitude: When you are alone, you are your own master. When you are with just one other person, you are only half in charge.
On wisdom: Old age feeds on wisdom.
Therefore conduct yourself in your youth in a way that assures that you will not go hungry in your maturity.
On profit: He who would be rich in a day will be hanged in a year.
On work: God sells us all good things for the price of our labor.