MICHELANGELO’S FIRST LOVE
Michelangelo is best known for his incredible frescos in the Sistine Chapel. But he didn’t enjoy painting. He really didn’t want to do the chapel ceiling. He was coaxed into it, and he sometimes complained and felt resentful. His body took a pounding due to the strange posture that was necessary to paint a ceiling. His face was covered with paint drips at the end of each day. He was very unhappy. But, he did a great job because he was a perfectionist; and he paid a personal price in his health and happiness for doing something that he didn’t really love.
His description of painting the ceiling reminded me of my days as a CPA. I was a damn good auditor. People even said I must have been born to do that work. I did an admirable job because I was responsible and a perfectionist. But I didn’t love it. I didn’t wake up looking forward to my days. I came home each day exhausted and feeling like something big was missing from my life.
What Michelangelo loved was sculpting. These are his words.
“In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and in action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.”
Yes, sculpting was Michelangelo’s true love. When he looked at a piece of marble, he saw the statue already inside the marble. Then he just had to chip away anything that wasn’t the statue so we could see what he saw. He was not worried about chiseling the wrong thing. He knew exactly what to do.
OUR TRUE WORK IS NOT HARD WORK
Our true work is just like sculpting to Michelangelo. It is easy, natural, and so enjoyable. A true singer hears a song in a beautiful way, and they bring it to life so we can enjoy it too. A real comedian sees something funny, and they let us laugh with them. An inspired inventor sees a new product, and they give that product life. A free artist paints or chisels their pure and beautiful inner vision. By bringing what the creator sees within their mind into the physical world, we get to see it too. They give us a bridge into their world. It is a gift of love.
I immediately identified with his way of seeing; and I saw my life in a whole new way. I couldn’t sculpt if my life depended on it. But when I look at a person, I see the True Self that lies beneath all of their beliefs. If they are willing, I show them how to discriminate and let go of that which is not true. As the dust of their beliefs falls away, their True Self is revealed. It is effortless, enjoyable, and I know I cannot make a mistake because I see and feel it so clearly.
Likewise, when I sit down to write, and I bring forth whatever is in my mind, it is enjoyable and effortless. But if I try to say it so that others will understand it or so they will not judge what I write, the effort creeps in and the joy disappears.
TRUE GOOD OR CRAZY EVIL
Michelangelo tells us the difference between true good and crazy evil. He said that he sees the statue already there, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. That could be a line from the Bible. It is so pure and sweet.
His inner eyes see something that is perfect although not yet material, just as we might imagine God seeing the earth before it was created. He goes to work to make the stone match the perfection in his mind. On our best days, that is what we all do.
Evil does the opposite. The evil part of our mind sees problems and flaws; and then it prompts us to tell the rest of the world to see that flaw or problem. It tries to fix the flaw. It doesn’t want us to let the flaw go and cure it. The false or evil part of Michelangelo would tell him it is just a big stone. It would say no one gives a damn about what he sees in the stone. It would tell him not to waste his time.
Evil is our inner marketing machine that promotes the problems it sees to the rest of the world; it is misery that loves company. Just yesterday, I heard a speaker say that “good” marketing is making sure that people feel their pain. Good politics tends to be the same. Good marketing and good politics are evil with a great mask. The only reason to feel our pain is to get rid of our pain, not to fix it with their solution.