By Dana Crisson, Educator
Only one more week remains to tour our fascinating exhibit, Leonardo da Vinci: Machines in Motion. Since it arrived February 7, over 40,000 visitors have toured the exhibit and marveled at his intricate machines. Visionary inventions such as the armored tank, the drive transmission, the printing press and the bicycle are on display, made with wood, rope and glue and other materials that were available in da Vinci’s era.
A number of special events have been scheduled for the final days of the exhibit. “Dads, Daughters and da Vinci,” a special Dad-Daughter Discovery Day held on April 11, featured Da Vinci’s parachute and glider, two of his inventions that focused on air and flight. And, since April is also National Kite Month, participants in this special program also built a kite to take home with them. Then on April 19 McWane hosted a “Happy 557th Birthday Leonardo!” party to celebrate his birthday on April 15, 1452. Visitors tested their invention and problem solving skills in the "What Would da Vinci Do?" Design Challenge; and in “Da Vinci Dissection,” visitors got the chance to think like Leonardo and dissected items like cameras and radios to find out how they work.
So, if you have put off touring the exhibit until now, don’t worry—there is still time. Actually, the fact that you procrastinated gives you something in common with da Vinci himself. According to W. A. Pannapacker, a professor at Hope College, da Vinci was a world-class procrastinator. In his article in The Chronicle Review titled “How to Procrastinate Like Leonardo da Vinci,” Pannapacker describes Leonardo as a man whose mind was so filled with new and exciting ideas that he rarely had time to complete one project before he was racing ahead with another. We know that Leonardo spent over 35 years writing in his notebooks, drawing designs and schematics for thousands of revolutionary designs and inventions, so his home must have been crowded with half-finished projects. “Some of Leonardo's entries are short jottings; others are lengthy and elaborate. The notebooks give the impression of a mind always at work, even in the midst of ordinary affairs,” Pannapacker writes. “He returned to some pages intermittently over many years, revising his thoughts and adding drawings and textual elaborations.”
Unfortunately, Leonardo rarely found the time to actually complete many of the great projects that he sketched in his notebooks. “Not only did Leonardo fail to realize his potential as an engineer and a scientist,” Pannapacker continues, “but he also spent his career hounded by creditors to whom he owed paintings and sculptures for which he had accepted payment but — for some reason — could not deliver, even when his deadline was extended by years.”
Missed deadlines? Demanding creditors? This small tidbit of information was very comforting to me. If Leonardo da Vinci, arguably one of the most famous and gifted minds of all time, was plagued by looming deadlines and angry creditors, then I feel much better about my own stack of unfinished projects and unpaid bills. This knowledge is almost enough to make be want to join the local chapter of Procrastinators Anonymous (if and when I get around to it). Hey, if procrastination was good enough for daVinci, it is good enough for me!
Pannapacker sums up da Vinci’s amazing talent this way: “If there is one conclusion to be drawn from the life of Leonardo, it is that procrastination reveals the things at which we are most gifted — the things we truly want to do. Procrastination is a calling away from something that we do against our desires toward something that we do for pleasure, in that joyful state of self-forgetful inspiration that we call genius.”
So, if you haven’t had a chance to visit the exhibit yet, don’t be a procrastinator like its namesake—come appreciate the wonders of Leonardo da Vinci: Machines in Motion, by April 26.
Dana Crisson is a former Discovery Guild member who clocked many volunteer hours at the science center before joining the McWane staff in the Education Department. She and her husband, Dwight, a CPA, and their entire family follow in the proud Leonardo da Vinci tradition of procrastination. Their garage and basement are both filled with unfinished projects, and their daughters, Rachel, 20, and Christina, 17, routinely wait until the last minute to finish their term papers and other assignments.