Saturday, April 28, 2007

Vitruvian Man

"Cosmografia del minor mondo"

In 1492, Leonardo da Vinci recorded this drawing in one of his journals. At the time he envisaged this picture chart of the human body as an analogy for the workings of the universe. The symbolism of the square within the circle meant that he believed the material existence (the square) was within the spiritual existence (the circle). The proportions shown were originally from a treatise by the Ancient Roman architect Vitruvius, hence the name. He observed, at the time, that:

  • a palm was the width of four fingers
  • a foot was the width of four palms
  • a man's height was 24 palms
  • the length of a man's outspread arms was equal to his height
  • the width of the shoulders was a quarter of his height
  • the distance from the elbow to the tip of the hand was 1/5th his height
  • the distance form the elbow to the armpit was 1/8th his height
  • the length of his hand was 1/10th his height

He also made more refined observations about a man's face. These statements by Viruvius may be taken as average proportions. Leonardo knew this and also commented, "The navel is naturally in the centre of the human body, and , if in a man lying with his face upward, and his hands and feet extended, from his navel as the centre, a circle be described, it will touch his fingers and toes. It is not alone by a circle, that the human body is thus circumscribed, as may be seen by placing it within a square. For measuring from the feet to the crown of the head, and then across the arms fully extended, we find the latter measure equal to the former; so that lines at right angles to each other, enclosing the figure, will form a square."

I have tried this in my classroom as a "scientific investigation". Even though the kids were not full grown there was a "sense of proportion" in these measurements. I would ask them if they were a "square" or a "rectangle"? Artistically, we then proceeded to draw ourselves in/within these shapes. Great fun.

This "sense of proportion" in life is essential I believe...not just for design purposes. Our center is actually not the navel, but moves up and down throughout our lives. Some of us are more "well balanced" to begin with. Some of us achieve it later. Some of us, sadly, never attain it. As good ol' Dr. Seuss says, "Life's a balancing act..." (from "Oh the Places You'll Go") I think he might've been referring, like Leonardo, to balancing the square within the circle...the physical/material within the spiritual/emotional. Much depends on where you locate your center. If it centers in your "gut", your appetites, instead of your "heart", your soul, then you are going to have a whole different "balancing act".

The ancient Vedic beliefs from India further define "health" this same way - "A Balance" They believe there are "doshas" that have to be in balance for optimal health. They are, (roughly) Vata...Pitta...Kapha in name and refer (again roughly) to the body types: Ectomorph...Mesomorph...Endomorph. They have distinct habits and ways of dealing with stress/life because of their approach to life which is dependent on their "shape". I'm, for example, a "pitta-kapha" right now. I haven't alway been. At certain times in my life I've been more "Vata". To me, the shape of a pure vata is more an elongated rectangle. The shape of a pure kapha is more of a horizontal rectangle. So, pitta is in the middle as a square. None are ideal, but they can all be better, if they are in balance with each other and no one "dosha" is over powering. What we eat and drink can greatly effect/affect our balance and proportions. Moderation is always the best. (especially with drugs and alcohol) Too much of a "good thing" can be just as bad for our balance. (except chocolate).

Can we help someone else maintain or restore balance?....Probably not...only by example...and prayer. Bob!


At 11:28 AM, Blogger BOB! Your Life Preserver said...

We are happy to report that "we" are melanoma least for the next 6 months. Betty was so happy to get that report after her total body mole check at the dermatoligists yesterday. We were so worried. We are back to walking, meditating and pumping iron even. What difference attitude can make...again it's balance and proportions in one's life. Bob!


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