The Beauty in the Struggle

Michelangelo, “Awakening Prisoners”  Galleria dell Accademia.

Michelangelo, “Awakening Prisoners” Galleria dell Accademia.

Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.

I am overwhelmed standing in front of “Awakening Slave”.  It is a 2.67m marble statue that was originally commissioned by Pope Julius II for his tomb in the Basilica of St. Peter’s as part of a slave series to include more than forty figures in a three-level structure that would surround Moses. The elaborate plan was stopped when Michelangelo was pulled away from the project to paint the Sistine Chapel.  The project was then redesigned and restarted. Over many years, it was stopped and started and eventually, it was aborted.  Awakening Slave now stands in Florence in the Galleria dell Accademia.

I feel a rush of emotions as I stare at the slave making a momentous effort to break away from the marble block--twisting and pulling. I can feel the prisoner’s power and agony. His muscles bulge, his torso strains. The lack of finished detail adds to its immediate and monumental power. The visible chisel marks on the stone elevate the struggle to a new level.

Michelangelo spent months trying to find the perfect marble for his subjects in the quarries of Cararra, Italy. He wanted to reveal the human experience and he felt it was his job to “set the sculptures free” from the confines of the marble. Michelangelo sculpted in a very different manner from the sculptors in his day. While many sculptors would create a plaster cast model and mark the marble block so they would know where to chip, Michelangelo created a groundbreaking process--working by hand.  He called his approach to sculpting the art of “taking away.” He would begin in the front and progress to the back of the block.

I wonder if Michelangelo finished this piece and deliberately left this work unfinished or is the Awakening Slave an unfinished piece? An unfinished piece enhances the tension; showing the never-ending personal and professional struggles and burdens that we encounter in everyday life and need to address. Michelangelo was a person, like you and I, who had faults and insecurities. He was solitary.  He had a melancholic personality. He battled with his sexual identity. He struggled with his relationship with God.

Perhaps the slave is trying to free his spirit? I can only imagine that at times, out of sheer frustration and angst and hopelessness, Michelangelo wanted to jump out of his own skin! Sound familiar? None of us want to feel imprisoned.

 How we so struggle to break away from our temporal selves, to be free, to soar…

Time for a Tune-up


Last week I met with a playwright in New York City who is interested in making “Smell the Raindrops” into a play! I can’t begin to tell you just how honored and humbled I am by this! I guess we never know how we are going to impact someone. Here is a person who was so touched by my story that he wants to share it on stage.

His primary focus and interest is addiction, an affliction that “never goes out of style”. Every moment someone is suffering from it. Every moment someone is crying out for help, if only in silence. Every moment someone is walking into a rehab center or an AA meeting seeking relief, seeking life without…

As I have written to you before I suffered from alcoholism for a number of years…a silent alcoholic. It has been 21 years since I have taken a drink. But I never take my sobriety for granted. I still live life “one day at a time”. And I have also told you that the anxiety issues I had that lead to addiction I still deal with…that’s life. The last eight weeks I spent at an out-patient rehab to deal with anxiety. Yes, I needed a tune-up! And I am so glad I went through the program—hours made up of therapy, neuro-feedback, acupuncture, and meditation. There is a calm I feel that I had lost along the way. Days are brighter. Sunsets more beautiful. Every moment a gift…

Don’t ever be embarrassed to get a “tune-up”. I believe we all need it in some way. So if you are suffering from an addiction, an affliction, seek help—it’s out there!