Leonardo da Vinci once said that “learning never exhausts the mind.” Although we’ll never know for sure exactly what he meant, it sounds like he was saying something like this:
Real learning happens when people do stimulating things that don’t wear them out.
This sounds an awful lot like…well…having fun. Playing, even.
In the basement of the French chateau where Leonardo spent his last years, visitors can explore beautifully-rendered wooden models of amazing inventions—all made from his original designs. The stunning variety of these items shows why the painter of the Mona Lisa inspired the term “Renaissance man.”
Besides the objects he left behind, one of Leonardo’s legacies was his insatiable curiosity. He is said to have scorned speculative knowledge found in books. Instead, he preferred the learning that happens through real-world experiences.
This, too, sounds like a grown-up version of the free-form exploration children do when they lose themselves in play. After all, as developmental psychology tells us, play is our earliest form of learning.
In the middle of our hyper-scheduled, over-booked lives, how can modern people restore some of this kind of learning? We might begin by allowing ourselves to daydream for a few minutes. Or unhook from our electronics for an hour.
Maybe we can start to pay attention to the activities that refresh, rather than wear us out. Are we learning when we do these things? Or we might look back on times in our lives when we learned something deeply and well, and examine what was going on.
Curiosity and experiential learning will always be relevant, now as they were in Leonardo’s day.