This weekend I’ve decided to blog something slightly different. Partly due to a hangover, I’m phoning it in and instead of a thoughtful opinion piece you’ll have to make do with a chapter from Where A Hero Lies; the novel I have been writing for the last eight years.
One of the finest works of art ever made sits at the end of a long hall in the Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence.
As you approach and stare, awe-struck at something so implausible, so impossible it feels hard to comprehend that something so extraordinary could be made by hand with little more than chisels and a sanding cloth.
Michelangelo’s David towers seventeen feet in height. From a few yards away you are moved not just by its size but by it’s detail. Every wrinkle, every vein, every muscle and sinew is captured in the stone. Such kinship, such likeness to life that half your mind expects the thing to breathe.
But what really moves, what shakes the senses, is the look in those eyes.
All the ambition, the desperate reaching drive for glory steels through his view. It is defiance: power and daring fixed at all that life and nature has to throw. In the face of the tyranny of brutal brawn, civilization stands it’s ground: the victory of humankind’s imagination.
The gap; the giant chasm between what you see and how on earth it came to be here casts your mind in such intense wonder that speech is struck from the lungs and thought from the mind.
Born in the mind of a man, raised in the the home of a stone cutter and already famed to the world at the age of twenty six.
Carved from a rock that was ditched in a courtyard and left to the elements for twenty five years.
For over two years he chiseled away at that abandoned piece of marble, sleeping in his clothes, eating little, working outside come rain or shine.
It took four days for forty men to move it into place. Such was the beauty of the work that it is difficult to believe that much of the original surface has slowly been worn away by weather and time.
Yet Michelangelo did not do it for the money or the praise of those that could not know his worth. He was known for his indifference to wealth and the company of others.
Such was his devotion to excellence that when the Mayor of Florence insisted that the nose was too thick and changes be made, that Michelangelo climbed a ladder with a hand full of dust and pretended to chip away till the man was satisfied.
He could have churned out something good in less than half the time.
There were lesser works with smaller stones that surely could have paid the same.
But a masterpiece, something that stirs the heart five hundred years from its creation, cannot be molded by the promise of reward.
If Mike had really been in it for that then there were a thousand different life decisions that he could and would have made. Our choices tell a story. Our decisions form a pattern. Every moment’s chisel at the stone reveals a character and it shapes a destiny.
Choice by choice. Deed by deed. Day by day. And that is how our lives are made…
Photo credit: Jörg Bittner Unna