Why the Vitruvian Man?
The Vitruvian Man is a well known sketch by Leonardo da Vinci and provides a visual representation of work done by Vitruvius, a Greek architect of the 1st century BC. In book three of De architectura Vitruvius describes the proportions of man. The full spread of the arms is equal to the height of the man. If legs are spread to form an equilateral triangle and the arms extended so that the tips of the fingers are aligned with the top of the head, the feet and fingers touch a circle, which is centered at the navel. Although these observations are not exactly true, they are fairly representative of an average human body. Since they are proportions, they apply to a person that is six feet in height as well as one who is five feet. However, one qualifier must be added. This applies to adults, not to babies and children, where the head is proportionally larger and the legs and arms proportionally shorter. These proportions should never be confused with an ideal since there are variations from this average that can depend on sex and ethnicity. See the following link for an artist's perspective on the subject: Human Anatomy Fundamentals: Advanced Body Proportions.
Measurements in the ancient world were often tied to the human body with such units as finger, palm, span, foot and cubit. da Vinci included some of the conversions between these units in the Vitruvian Man. Four fingers make up a palm and four palms make up a foot. Six palms is a cubit, which is also equal to two spans (distance between the stretched out thumb and little finger). These physical measures go beyond an architects curiosity, but demonstrate how ingrained these measures are to the fabric of society throughout history.
Having now provided context, why use the Vitruvian Man as the image to represent the conference Reclaim Wisdom Beginning With Creation? Leonardo da Vinci is considered to be a Renaissance man having academic pursuits of art, music, literature, history, mathematics and science. Today we might use the word polymath and see him as the fully educated man. What person could be more capable to knowledgeably engage the world and have significant impact?
But is this truly the measure of a man? The proportions of the Vitruvian Man are physical measures only. The criteria for a Renaissance Man appear to be restricted to intellectual pursuits. What about the social, moral and spiritual? If a person is going to be fully developed, should that person not be proportional in all aspect that make him/her human? And how do we determine what it means to be fully human? Is it solely through physical observations of matter through time and space? Is man the measure of all things?
These questions drive us back to our belief in origins. We are lead to believe that everything we know about mankind (physically, mentally, socially, morally and spiritually) can be explained by evolutionary theory. Even if we believe there is an immaterial essence that connects all of humanity to nature and eternity, this belief leaves ambiguous such concepts as good/evil, right/wrong and personal identity. However, the Bible's creation account gives a different basis for the definition of man. By accepting the historicity of the biblical account mankind is neither a chance outcome of a physical process nor the necessary expression of a cosmic essence, but the purposeful creative act of an omnipotent, personal Creator. It is the Creator, who becomes the measure of all things and, therefore, the source of our understanding of what it means to be a complete person. What one believes about origins, determines one's belief as to what makes a person complete. If wisdom is to be reclaimed, it must begin with creation.