The word genius is conferred to few as an apithet, but certainly it applies to Leonardo DaVinci. As I visited a display of his labors this weekend at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, I became gripped with just how much of a genius he was. The singular aspect of his work that impressed me more than any other was how he was able to take the breadth of his learning and make many areas of study subservient to the one he was focusing on- whether using geometry to enhance the beauty of paintings, studying water currents for the design of flying apparatus that would sail on the air, or harnessing the properties of physics in civil engineering to design more efficient water transportation devices. He made use of each area and it seemed even if he was designing a machine, he wanted it to have an aesthetic, but functional, beauty. He was a master not because he saw one area as independent from the rest, but interdependent on the others.
DaVinci strikes me as a rare genius because he could be called not only an artist or sculptor, but an engineer and a mathematician too. There seems a sharp contrast between these two fields, of the freeform and unrestrained liberality of art on the one hand and the suffocatingly stringent rigorous nature of the engineers who found their understandings based on proofs, theories, and laws on the other. The two fields are disparate to many and cause sides to be chosen by those in each; the artist esteems the heart and scoffs at delving too deeply into the nature of things, they just are, he says, and by delving too deeply into mysteries you miss the blessing; the logician elevates the mind and harnesses its power as a machine to crank out all matter of formulas and principles while looking with apprehension at the volatile character of the emotions. The emotions to the engineer are altogether too fickle to be trusted while the mind to the artist is too callous.
DaVinci showed that by more thoroughly understanding one subject, we can be helped in others by broadening our scope of the way things work. DaVinci showed the body is not just anatomy and physiology, it is mechanics and physics, it is structure, geometry, and so much more. Neither the human body, nor the body of Christ is broken up into one group that defines what it is; it is many parts, many functions, and many unique areas meant to complement each other and work together.