Leonardo Da Vinci had an extraordinary mind, surpassing his teachers not by his gifts alone, but because he stepped outside of what was considered normal methods of learning. When he realized something wasn’t fully understood such as the lighting effects in a composition, he would go outside and study light obsessively; how the sun hit every curve of a flower, how the shadows changed shape throughout the day and how reflections could cause shadows to become tinged with color.
Genius he was, although I can’t help but think he would have been thought a misfit by today’s standards. He is thought to have had ADHD which came with a whole bag of differences: procrastination, the inability to finish many projects, obsessiveness, etc.
While taking an unusual amount of time to finish his masterpiece The Last Supper, the Church Prior became frustrated with Da Vinci’s procrastination and complained to Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan, that “He wanted him never to lay down his brush, as if he were a laborer hoeing the Prior’s garden.”
Da Vinci responded that he was having trouble finding a model for Judas, and he would use the prior’s image if he continued to hound him.
Not long ago, my kids’ school had to be saved from prior-like, small-town corruption. Technically, it’s a city, but town sounds homier. Homier like a good ol’ boys club. Seriously, it was like living through a Hallmark movie—the X-Men version. I say that because the town is ordinary but our school is not.
It’s a charter school with an emphasis on literacy and the arts. It’s also the place pediatricians point to when a parent is trying to find a school that will accept children on the spectrum. The school doesn’t “handle” special kids, they help them thrive. We’re also a blue ribbon school—some would call it a mixed bag of misfits, others, the gifted.
It’s a long and complicated story, but in a paragraph, the town sued the school repeatedly, trying to demand an amount of money no school could afford and keep its doors open. We won—all six times. After the sixth time, the judge told the town to leave us alone. But again, another threat to sue. The town spewed a lot of words about violations: lack of legitimate parking spaces, a water main issue—all of which was hyperbole. We didn’t know the true motivation of the town, but we saw plenty of evidence pointing to a complete lack of understanding in regards to the big picture.
We filled the town hall and the introvert that I am sat in a perfectly-rowed seat as parent after teacher pleaded to our new Mayor.
A former student sat in front of us. He’s in high school now, on the spectrum, and was promptly filed into the Special Ed program. I don’t believe they really understand people like him, but our elementary school of the gifted did.
They saw him—from a beginning student struggling to read to a young man speaking at his eighth grade graduation. He’s a world champion in karate. He offers himself as a human punching bag in a local women’s self-defense class.
Stories such as this were poured forth from the mouths of those who were tired of priors telling them they had to fall into a mold they weren’t made for. Tired of the attempts to bully them into closing because we all knew no other local school valued artists and the gifted like they do.
With all the gratefulness in me, I can say the new Mayor is our Ludovico Sforza who, when the prior was threatened to be painted as Judas when he chided Da Vinci about being too slow, “was moved to wondrous laughter, saying that Leonardo had a thousand reasons on his side.”
A thousand reasons on our side. That’s how it is for us, friends, when we need to step away from the mold.
“When Leonardo was summoned by the duke, they ended up having a discussion of how creativity occurs. Sometimes it requires going slowly, pausing, even procrastinating. That allows ideas to marinate, Leonardo explained. Intuition needs nurturing. “’Men of lofty genius sometimes accomplish the most when they work the least,’” he told the duke, “’ for their minds are occupied with their ideas and the perfection of their conceptions, to which they afterwards give form.’” Leonardo Da Vinci by Walter Isaacson.
My friends, thank you for your continued support. If you like art like I do, and fiction with amazing youth, here is my gift to you: Wake is free. When finished, scroll past the chapters to the back matter where you’ll find a link for the next book, Wild, for free.