Predawn Portals of Possibility

leonardo

. . . Yet did I never breathe its pure serene 
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold: 
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies 
When a new planet swims into his ken . . . 
John Keats, “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer”
For a month, I’ve waited for Walter Isaacson’s biography on Leonardo da Vinci to come out. I have been enriched by two of his earlier works on Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein. Finally, yesterday, I purchased this latest work and pored over its pages until I could stay awake no longer in the night. Retiring to bed early, I set an alarm and rose at 5 this morning so I could return to it. Throughout my life, I have known the exhilaration of Keats when he happened upon Chapman’s translation of Homer. Indeed, I feel the thrill of the astronomer discovering a new planet. A new portal opens before me, welcoming me to a broader, more enchanting world.
Isaacson has chosen to focus on Leonardo’s notebooks, and I’m finding that to be a refreshing point of departure. I have had the pleasure of reading a number of Leonardo biographies, and I’m fascinated with Isaacson’s emphasis on the curiosity of this Renaissance Man. I myself have journaled since 1985, and now have over 130 volumes on my shelf. Some of the pages are worth re-reading, many are not. Nevertheless, my mind has stayed fresh because of this habit of scribbling constantly the ideas fleeting across the screen of my consciousness. I believe that journaling has contributed to the energy necessary for writing and making art, and above all, believing. Journals, to me, are nets for organizing wonder.
I could never exhaust the list of creative spirits who have inspired me throughout my years, either through their scholarship, their creative writing or their visual art. The ones I find myself continually rethinking and re-examining include Paul Tillich, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, William Carlos Williams, Robert Henri, Edward Hopper, Andrew Wyeth, Robert Motherwell, Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger . . . and the list continues to grow.
My interests, I admit, appear scattered. I make art. I read. I journal. I watch documentaries. I blog. I play my guitar. I get in my Jeep and drive. And I understand Leonardo’s attention deficit disorder that frequently left projects unfinished. But I take solace in Isaacson’s words: “Vision without execution is hallucination. . . . Skill without imagination is barren.”
The contemplative life has saved me repeatedly throughout the years. If finances go bad, relationships sour, employment stales, artistic momentum fades . . . I can always depend on this constellation of geniuses to inject new blood into my system. I am aware of the conventional wisdom urging us to maintain a broad network of friendships, and I believe my friendship network is rich. At the same time, I acknowledge that I am an introvert and many times find the need to draw my inspiration from the “dead heroes” who to me are not dead–they still reach out to me through the creative tracks they left behind.
Thanks for reading.
I make art in order to remember.
I journal when I feel alone.
I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.
 

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