Two years ago I wrote a single sentence in a Word document and saved it as an idea for a future blog. It was a phrase I found in an article on the Internet talking about the amazing imagination and vision of Michelangelo. The phrase was part of a quote from Michelangelo about his process of creation: “I saw the angel in the marble and I carved until I set him free”.
I’ve had this quote and my own nuanced ideas from it kicking around my head for years now, every once in a while popping up in my folder of article drafts. When I first copied the quote it was as a motivation to myself to stick to my fitness goals. I thought of my inner “fit girl” as the angel, and the pudgy woman I was as the giant hunk of marble holding me back from my inner beauty, my yet unrealized potential.
That idea grew from purely physical ponderings and into all areas of my life. I had so many goals to achieve and I thought that the person who would realize them was lying just under this vulnerable, sensitive exterior. The me who would realizes all of my ambitious dreams is trapped in the hunk of rock of my Netflix bingeing, risk averse current self. My mindset told me that success/happiness/big things couldn’t possibly be achieved by the person who I was. I needed to do the hard work, the literal grinding, of removing pounds of useless rock to become the ‘angel’ I wanted to be. This was at least a somewhat more altruistic idea, as I wasn’t interested simply in looking good, but in doing good. I want to change the world, to empower people to live the lives they dream of, to do the things they aren’t sure they have the power to do. In my mind that required being a different person. A person with less stuff going on. Someone who was inherently different from me, in body and spirit and title.
Two years later, this quote brings up quite different ideas. No longer do I see myself as the misshapen, rough hunk of rock, nothing really until great work and time and sacrifice are poured over it.
I have finally come to think of myself as Michelangelo and the ‘angel’ as something quite outside myself. I’ve learned that I’m not a half formed thing, not yet worthy of viewing or pride. My value doesn’t lie still hidden beneath pounds of excess. Yes, I continue to grow and change and evolve, but I am complete and whole now, as I am. I’m the one with the vision and creativity and a sphere of influence into which to instill good and truth and strength. I already has a Potter and he saw fit to make this ‘lump of clay’ into a carb craving free spirit with the body of an Eastern European peasant. He will be faithful to complete His work in me, but He didn’t make me to fuss and fret over the package I’m in. He gave me much greater things to be about. This life I’ve been given is my quarried stone and every day I am seeing and trying to bring out the angel in the marble.
My ‘angel’ looks like people happy enough in themselves to love and acknowledge others. My sculpture has my friends successfully in charge of their own companies, partners who treat each other with respect and mutual desire for happiness. I see kids who know that they are capable of anything and that their feelings are important, people who respect and care for others and themselves. I see my home filled with beauty and love and positivity. And I have impact in making that happen. I put hammer to chisel and tap away at the seemingly impenetrable façade of the self-doubt of others. I do my best to use my words to chip away at the negative thought patterns I hear around me. I realize my vision by building others up, praising their achievements, admiring compassion, perseverance, and humor over physique. In my own life I want to use my energy and efforts to bring beauty into the world with a medium that isn’t my own appearance. I see flowers and drawings and beautiful words that make people think and be happy. Those are my angels to sculpt, to carve until I set them free.
What do you want to sculpt? What beautiful things do you see that you are keen on bringing into the world? You have been endowed with the vision, and the ability to make it happen. Michelangelo’s sculptures took years to come to fruition, and have lasted for hundreds, so be patient with yourself.