Innovation, oranges and the impossibility of happiness (Monday imaginings)

Copy of Leonardo’s Battle of Anghari by Rubens

This has to do with relativism and perspective.

I retain a vivid memory, when I was 13 or 14 looking out of my friend’s bedroom window.

He lived in Magdiel, a run-down neighbourhood on the outskirts of Hod Hasharon, 20 miles or so from Tel Aviv.

The view from his window was that of orange groves. Stretching for miles. A sea of green with bright fruit.

I was surprised when I expressed my admiration of the view to my friend; he wasn’t fussed, this was his norm.

When my children were younger we lived in Crane Moor, a small village between Sheffield and Barnsley – rural South Yorkshire.

Drawing of the uterus of a pregnant cow, 1508 - Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo, cow uterus

There I remember the view from my son’s window, it was of rolling, undulating, grassy fields. Friesians all named Daisy lived there, they would come up to our wall and gnaw on the shed from time to time. Occasionally a mole would visit.

My son at the time didn’t appreciate what he had; he was only eight or nine.

Yesterday evening I was sitting outside a café in central Bristol with my son who has moved there to study, he was drinking an Americano, me an AeroPress coffee (don’t ask). I remarked on the vitality of the place, the vibrancy, most of which is missing when I look out the window of my Doncaster home. There aren’t any cafes where I live, nor many international students.

This morning I had a moment.

I had been talking with some colleagues about ideas to improve care, to unlock the fastidiousness of the system, to draw-out the obstacles and liberate patients; we were talking inequality, new ways of seeing and doing. It was me at my best.

Later-on, in another meeting as I created one of the geometric patterns that I have been drawing since the start of Covid, I reflected on the tedium of the moment and the inspiration of earlier.

I thought of Leonardo, who stands as surely the greatest innovator in history and also probably the worst completer-finisher – See Saint Jerome, The Virgin and the Child with St Anne, The Adoration of the Magi, The Battle of Anghiari. (He held on to the Mona Lisa for 8 years after it was supposedly finished, adding touches)

‘Wouldn’t it be fine to be a Leonardo,’ I pondered. Not necessarily possessing divine genius, as that can be inconvenient, but having the capacity, the time and the space to let your mind wander to the colour of the sky, the shape of hills, the movement of water, muscles and the eye, the mechanism of the woodpecker’s tongue, the development of the foetus, creation, innovation, perspective and momentum.

Studies of the foetus in the womb by Leonardo da Vinci

Alas, no.

There has to be the mundane.

There has to be the ordinary to make the special, well, special.

And that is the lesson.

We should make the most of the tedium, of the ordinary, as, by its very presence we are granted the opportunity for the special, the unique, novel and fun.

Pain can be good as pain can end and with it the non-pain, the anticipation of the prize is often better than the winning.

Maintaining a steady state of wonder.

That’s what we need.

Leonardo da Vinci - Adorazione dei Magi - Google Art Project.jpg
Leonardo, Adoration of the Magi, incomplete

Published by rodkersh1948

Trying to understand the world, one emotion at a time.

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