I sat in the doctor’s waiting room for the third time that week. All I know was that I was bleeding, and bleeding when I shouldn’t be, and bleeding hard.
The worst thing that I could ever do was google my symptoms, which I did. So drowning in my anxiety and uncertainty, I sat there waiting for my turn, wondering how petty all my past fears were compared to the excruciating seconds that passed by.
It didn’t stop, whatever it is, the invisible hand that pulled us apart and brought us together. It hit me again and again. Like wet slaps in the cold morning, just when you were about to sleep after a long night of insomnia and exhaustion.
And that day was my birthday but I didn’t get any candles, or silly singing, or serve a sweet variation of spaghetti, which I really like. All I had were the shoes on my feet and my terse smile as I wait for the nurse to finally, finally, please sweet pea, please beckon me to come in.
The great Renaissance area, properly blessed with talent and cursed with pestilence, had bred remarkable men this world has ever witnessed.
Michelangelo one day walked Florence centuries ago and he was given, finally, the block of marble two other artists had given up on. It was full of ‘taroli’ or imperfections, making it impossible to work with– or so they claimed.
And the 26 years old celebrity artist, hand of God, as it were, took it upon himself to free the perfection within this twice-rejected imperfect marble that others had given up on and neglected for 25 years.
He fervently believed that David was already inside, beautiful and perfect, waiting to be freed.
Four long excruciating years of hard work and back-breaking labor, one blow at a time, layer by layer, with patience and resilience and exceptional belief in his vision, Michelangelo prevailed. He soldiered on and chipped on the hard, neglected, imperfect stone.
Four long years.
All he did, he claimed, was take everything away that was not David, freeing him from his prison. And in the end, he stood magnificently — The beautiful statue of David.
In The Eyes of David
We come to this world as a huge clumsy block of stone. Marvelously malleable, pure marble, and impossibly pregnant with the possibilities of becoming anything we’d like to be.
We are tabula rasa. Blank and irresistible to the universe, it hates an empty space, it hates anything that did not flow as it did. So it shall fill.
Do we think that the marble knew what it could become? Do we assume that deep inside he knew he’d be revered for 500 generations?
But something else will, and it will begin to chip on us, with the excruciating way sculptors hit and shape the marble.
The invisible hand will chip on you, but before that you will feel useless, unwanted, hopeless. And when finally, when you are about to go through the laborious revolution of change, of freedom from all that is not your perfection, it will hurt.
It will hurt so bad, and your will to live will be tested. But you are stone, are you not?
You will starve, your parents might divorce, you wouldn’t get to school without that scholarship, you couldn’t find one that would accept you, your girlfriend will cheat on you with your best friend.
Blow after blow, the Master will sculpt you.
You will lose all the money you worked so hard for, you might get into drugs, you will fail that test, that job interview, and no one will believe in you. A super typhoon will wreck your frail house, your accent will be the butt of jokes.
You won’t be able to afford your medicines, out of everyone in the floor, your supervisor will zero in on you.
Why me? why me? why me?
Layer by layer, the Master chisels you.
Every blow more agonizing than the last, but you survived the one before that, and you will survive this too.
Awake at night, when the passing cars make the lights move in your room, in the overwhelming silence, the warmth of the sheets tangled between your legs, and in the nest of safety of knowing that it’s too late or too early for anything bad to happen. You could hear it, maybe, the greater power that continually pesters you. You can hear it exhale in exhaustion, take a break, and resume again in the morning.
Because there is so much more, so much more to free in you.
J.K. Rowling cried on national TV. She had become richer than the Queen of England, but this was not what she wanted to talk about.
Right before she wrote Harry Potter, she was a single parent, starving and struggling to support her infant daughter, living impoverished on welfare.
I could remember clearly how she said it, “Jessica’s toys fit in a shoe box” and then she broke down to tears.
Years later, as fate would have it, she was invited to Harvard to deliver a speech and there she immortalized her words.
“Why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential.”
“I was set free because my greatest fear had been realized and I still had a daughter that I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”
When she no longer cared about what people would say, left with nothing but her typewriter to fight back, then every noise was quiet down. All that is there to sedate us or distract us from this world. So she typed, and typed, and that’s all she did. She stopped caring about any of the latest fads, ‘earth-shattering’ juicy hollywood news, the ambition to live the high life. All that is ‘taroli’. All that is unnecessary.
That is when she succeeded.
I wish I could stay in the early morning forever or late at night, it is when most of the world that is immediate to me is fast asleep that I can become who I am without pretense.
This is the rule. The only way we can become shaped is with the blow of hammer by that invisible hand, and the only way it can be sure is by testing us again.
‘Are you ready?’
‘Are you ready?’
‘I will make you ready.’
I believe the universe is curious, and it can only learn by seeing. So it places where you are and watches you, after all that trembled your singular existence, and all that is sent to you, are you ready for what is really meant for you?
Are you your David now?
Do you bleed? Are you alive? Homer once wrote in his Iliad,
“The Gods envy us.
They envy us because we’re mortal, because any moment might be our last.
Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed.
You will never be lovelier than you are now.
We will never be here again.”
Our immortality lies in the next new block of marble to be scrapped, the process we will have to endure, in our journey to become.
I hesitated for a moment, my eyes dancing in their place, scanning his face. Amber light softening his features and his hair matted by the lazy stir of air around us. I was always too scared to tell him, to tell anyone, what I’ve been through in fear that my imperfection will drive anyone’s love away.
I sat in silence, motionless, almost in trance. Telling him the strange things that killed me inside, talking like I was talking about another person’s struggles. When it was done, he was almost in tears too.
I was sorry, apologetic, for my truth.
‘Sorry?’, he repeated. ‘I always thought you had it easy.’
‘Then that’s beautiful.’
LEAP OF FAITH
I suppose the only question that matters is, are we better than who we were? Not better than anyone else, for that judgment is left to the greater power that makes the world move the way it already does.
Did the pain we endure we have properly used to etch the marks of a better becoming? Or did we hold on to our pieces, even as they crumble, from the invisible hand’s bloody, perfect, loving effort to believe that in all of us is a David begging for his way out of his cage.
There are too many times I was so sure I’d die, but I didn’t. It got better.
P.S. Enjoy this. 🙂 Maximize volume and get lost for a while.