He noticed how mountains become bluer the further away they are, asked why, and came up with a theory far ahead of his time. He looked at the crescent moon in the night sky, and wondered why a ghost disk floated above it — and grasped that he was looking at Earthshine, the reflected light from the Earth, and described this effect in a way that NASA found quite exact more than five centuries later.
In 1502, he designed a single-span bridge, like a pressed bow, to span the
Before 1500, and shortly after, he designed prototypes for the helicopter, the tank, the hang glider, scuba diving equipment, a submarine, a calculator, a mobile robot, and something akin to a programmable analog computer. IBM put up the money to build forty working models of his inventions, which are on display at the Chateau of Clos Luce at
He was, of course, Leonardo da Vinci. The secret of this polymath’s immense imagination is of endless fascination. We won’t understand him unless we grasp that his power was, quite simply, the practice of imagination.
Leonardo has left us clues as to how we can exercise imagination as he did, and these clues are more thrilling — and vastly more practical — than anything you will find in a conspiracy thriller. In his Treatise on Painting, he gives us “a way of arousing the mind to various inventions".
The preferred method, he suggests, is to stare at a blank wall.
He specifies that the wall must not be literally blank. The ideal wall will have stains and cracks and discolorations. You stare at these until images begin to form in your mind, and then change and quicken. You may see many different landscapes, “graced with mountains, rivers, rocks, trees, plains, great valleys, and hills in many combinations.”
Or you can exercise your director’s power and let the scenes evolve into battles or great dramas, with “figures darting about, strange-looking faces and costumes, and an endless number of things which you can distill into finely rendered forms.”
He does not spell out that the things “you can distill into finely rendered forms” may include a new invention that goes centuries beyond current technology.
Leonardo tells us we can read patterns on a stone as easily as on a wall and get similarly fabulous results.
We can also take a break from visual thinking and see what comes when we devote our fullest attention to another sense: hearing. To switch from visual mode to auditory mode, he advises listening with undivided focus to the sound of bells or the sound of running water. As you let your imagination stream with the sounds, words and music will come to you, and if you let it flow, you will soon be in creative flow yourself, bringing through fresh words and new ideas.
The greatest secret of the true Da Vinci Code is hidden in plain view, and audible to anyone — as soon as we adjust our senses.
Adapted from The Three "Only" Things: Tapping the Power of Dreams, Coincidence and Imagination. Published by New World Library.