Saper Vedere: Knowing How to See

“And so she woke up
Woke up from where she was
Lying still
Said I gotta do something
About where we’re going”
– U2, Running To Stand Still

This song is about drug addiction.  Thankfully I’ve never been a drug addict and so I guess I don’t hear it that way.  Instead I hear the cry out for more than this that leads the couple to escape through drugs.  Seeking a more vibrant canvas than the one we’ve currently painted is a common trait among humans.  Whether we do it through positive pursuits like travel, art, or exercise or through other pursuits like drugs or porn or consuming media makes all the difference in how we grow.  The character Bono sings about could easily have gotten up and picked up a pen instead of a needle.  Perhaps they didn’t see another path out of their current situation.  Perhaps they never saw the light that glimmers around us in the dim reality of poverty.

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

To reach for “newer” demands we stretch ourselves.  To reach for “richer” infers personal growth as we expand our ideas about what our place in this world can be.  We all face the same ticking clock and react to it in our own way.  And that reaction itself changes with time and experience.  At least if we learn from our experiences as we accumulate them.  I shake my head at some of the experiences I had earlier in my life that I didn’t learn from.  But not learning from what happens in our lives is as much an experience as learning and adjusting the first time.  We all travel the winding path of life at our own pace, and some paths are much harder than others.  But having the vision to see what you want your life to be and building a foundation underneath it is the missing link for so many.

“The painter has the Universe in his mind and hands.” –  Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci had a philosophy about life called “Saper Vedere” that I find particularly fascinating.  Saper Vedere means “knowing how to see” and it involves visualizing whatever it is you’re creating through a mix of “arte (skill), scientia (knowledge), and fantasia (imagination)”.  (Here’s my source of this information).  So Saper Vedere applied to our lives offers clarity and purpose to the sculptor inside of us.  We’re all inventing our lives every day, or we’re sliding sideways letting the world dictate what we do today and tomorrow and the rest of our days.  I like the former, don’t you?  Every day I try to learn a bit more, to apply that knowledge in productive ways, and to taste, and learn from, experience.  I don’t always achieve everything I visualize in a day, but believe I get closer to the ideal than I might otherwise.

So Saper Vedere takes its place with Carpe Diem and Memento Mori as a way of living that squeezes the most out of our raw potential.  Slowly creating the life you visualize, one step at a time in our quest for Arete (another word that’s been lodged in my brain since I was a teenager).  In Greek mythology Arete means “Excellence”, or reaching one’s potential in this very human life.  I’m not sure its possible to reach our potential, but we can get a lot closer, can’t we?  The striving for excellence begins with having a vision for the life you’d like to live, and then doing the work to achieve it.  To wake up and do something about where you’re going.  To reach out without fear for newer and richer experience.  To have a vision for your life and to pursue it in earnest, beginning today.

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