The moon washes a glittering city in its milk yellow light as we wind up and wind up and wind up and roll and roll until the wingtips lift and the wing straightens up and the fuselage of this 400 tonne behemoth settles into its load carrying wings. And as it does my breath catches and my heart trips for this is no ‘another trip’. This is the beginning of the next chapter. Of another life even? A washing, nay a sloughing off of so much that has dogged my soul these last months. My homespun half thought through philosophy grasps the idea of reinventing myself. I’ve been telling myself I have been doing that all year. As we pull up over the harbor and I catch a glimpse of the stadium lights (and hope Cronulla is thumping Manly) I realize it’s a concept I don’t really like. Do I want to be reinvented? Or do I want something else?
Something else actually. Michelangelo apparently declared that his unnaturally perfect David was in that block of marble clamouring to be released. Waiting there for Michelangelo to simply let him out. It’s an ancient concept used by sculptors for ever as they declare their modesty and humility and average skills. But I think I prefer that as an idea or concept to describe life’s experiences and especially its upheavals. Michelangelo chipped and chiseled, rasped and filed and ground David out of that stone. Isn’t that what life dishes up – a whole lot of grinding and cutting? Harsh removal of excess. Aha, therein lies a key idea. David is not a clay model built up layer by layer but revealed through the removal of unnecessary spoil.
If I’m a work in progress it’s a progress that removes the unnecessary spoil from my life. The things that reveal most of who I am are the chiseling and the rasping and filing. I don’t want the artist to stop right now and reinvent me. If he does that those cut and file marks , the coarse shaping cuts of the adze remain. Let’s not reinvent, but rather persevere with what has already been started because I can only hope that the finished product is not rasp marked and chisel pocked but burnished smooth , pleasing to the eye, perfectly balanced, naturally lined and formed, a work of art that declares and points clearly to the skill of the artist.
Sydney falls away as I think on these things. We track along the highway to Katoomba for a short period, the lights of cars heading out of town for the holidays marking that winding course. I think of the pieces knocked off me since last October and decide they may well have been my salvation of sorts. I am who I am as a result of them. Yet this plane bores into the dark bearing me to Kabul via Dubai and Kenya. Who could predict that twelve months ago? Heck, it was not even a concept eight days ago. But I have a sense this is not just about an exciting job prospect (it is that too) but a destiny in which the sculpting work will be for the benefit of others. Who are they? I have no idea but this artist of mine has been working some fine emery these last couple of weeks and I have had a deep sense of peace about his work and what his finished product might look like. Now, he allows no mirrors so I can’t really see how the work is progressing and others have to let me know how it’s going. So far the occasional art critics have been kind and they have encouraged me to think there will be some who will benefit from all this stone dust flying about.
Which is of course what we want to test about ourselves is it not? What is all this for? Why the savage work of chisel? Why the beat and noise of the hammer? Why bother? Why not just finish it all now? An option for the briefest period, earlier in the year. I reflect on that for a moment then shift on to the wonder that some of my friends are extraordinarily wealthy. But for some their investment in others is so paltry. Which means the returns on their lives , the rewards, are thin or non existent. They don’t seem to have had any file or rasp marks on them. Life has been easy and straight forward. But they stand in the dusty corner of the museum of their lives and bring no joy to any who would seek them out. So I console myself with the idea that this hard masonry work can only be for the uplifting of someone else. If it’s just for my own benefit, well that makes no sense and that early termination idea eminently sensible. But Michelangelo didn’t put all that work into David to have him covered up, cast to the bottom of a deep lake or hidden in a vault. Generations have drawn delight and satisfaction, inspiration and joy from that piece of marble. Even with cut marks still fresh on me I can only hope that my sculptor intends his work will bring joy and pleasure to others. That I am not the ends of his work but the means. The means for helping others understand his skill, his eye, his careful hand, his gentle art and his heart for his subject.
I seek that external, objective purpose for without it there is no point to this journey, no point to suffering, no point to anything really. With it this trip, this evolution, this recent hard grinding and polishing, this emery smoothing out the cut marks, soaking them out of the stone has purpose and merit and is something I can accept. It gives me context for this latest adventure. It’s not just a job in a place few want to visit . It’s not just a job needed because I was out of work but an opportunity to be immersed in something that just might benefit other people. Can a job have such a noble purpose? It should if the object is someone else. I pray that might be the case.
Diary 30 September 2013