Learning from Michelangelo
by Jeannette Webb
I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.
Many love this quote by one of the greatest artists of all time. It is an inspiration to those of us who take seriously the task of creating beauty in the lives of our children. However, I think most people see this endeavor through rose-colored glasses. We are a bit foggy as to the steps on the way to the masterpiece. We honestly do not understand the work involved. We are hoping for the ease of carving soap while he is talking about chiseling rigid stone.
A sculptor must have incredible strength to wield his tools. The mallet and chisel get heavier by the hour. The pneumatic hammer jars the body. The hand drills and grinders assault the ears and the final sanding with pumice takes infinite patience. It is imperative throughout the process that the vision stays foremost in his mind because one wrong chisel stroke can ruin or totally alter his work. At the end of the day, the artist is covered with dust, is fatigued, and has seen little progress.
If we are to create things of beauty out of these rough and tumble children of ours, we have much to learn from the artistic masters:
- Keep a clear vision of where you are headed regardless of arms aching from the chiseling. Losing your focus can have disastrous results.
- Be willing to quickly knock away anything that will mar the final product. This can be attitudes, habits, friendships, or activities.
- Understand that there are times a pneumatic hammer is needed and times just sandpaper. A smart parent knows what is important and what is trivial.
- Expect to get dirty and exhausted daily. Sorry for the bad news, that’s just the way it is if you are doing your job.
- Understand that progress is very slow. Very, very slow.
- Remember that most great artists were misunderstood, their technique and their sanity questioned. If you are a parent dedicated to creating a masterpiece, there is a high probability that others (including family) will misunderstand you. In fact, there probably won’t be anyone else like you in your church, homeschool group, or neighborhood. Get used to it.
There’s something else Michelangelo said that we never hear,
If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.
We tend to forget, standing at the museum enthralled with the beauty of a superbly executed sculpture, that the artist had to work incredibly hard and carve away a whole lot of marble!
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