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

So said Michelangelo, sixteenth-century Florentine artist and poet, of the method in which he worked: his sinewy hands surrendered to the fire of his imagination directing his hammers, chisels, and polishers. Unlike his peers who fashioned clay models to work from, Michelangelo sketched his, then inked significant marks upon marble blocks, cut from the quarry near Carrara. What emerged were works in progress, at times, with unintended forms, some left unfinished.

What was significant was their strange beauty.

In my perception, a parallel exists between this anecdote and growing old. Often, the expression, growing old, is voiced in pejorative tones and says much about the one expressing it.

But growing into old age is a critical process filled with discoveries of who we really are and are becoming. Acceptance of new limits, experienced like the Sculptor’s hammering, unsettle the familiar, reveal comic aspects of former behaviors, and shake free the shrouds of relationships. Such acceptance also floods the present with fresh grace to continue exploring unscaled vistas of imagination. Here, the Polisher takes over.

Fine-mesh pads evoke startling dreams from the psyche, smooth over owned mistakes of whatever magnitude, and release colors into what were drab scenarios of experience. The challenge is to remain beneath the Polisher’s tool until the sheen of being catches fire in the light.

Within this light, we see anew and clap hands as we wait for the strange beauty to emerge.  It will come…

 

Unless the Lord build the house, in vain do the laborers build it. (Psalm 127:1)

This verse came to mind while meditating this morning. It speaks to my efforts to make sense of the terminal illness that is shortening my life, a life I frankly love and don’t want to leave, a reversal from yesterday’s attitude.

The symbol house as understood in Jungian psychology represents the entire psyche in its varied stages of development. In my childhood experience of the world as cold and hostile, my house collapsed. I retreated into fantasy, and with it, further stagnation: Nothing lived. Robot-like, I meandered around the known corners of my life, feigning interest but often bored. The enveloping pain dis-eased my body.

Only through 12-Step work, begun in 1991, did I discover my voice and a friendly world in which to breathe. But decades of barricaded rooms in my house had to be interfaced with the discipline of the 12 Steps, their rubbish cleared out. From the outset, I recognized the enormity of this task. On my own, this was impossible.

The Step III Prayer conceives the Lord as a Master Builder: “I offer myself to Thee, to build with, to do with me as Thou wilt …” with the mandate to let go of the outcome. For decades, such has been my practice, with much stuff carted away. But there’s still more.

Time constraints press upon me now. I’d rather fix the remaining disorders than let the Lord continue building my house. It’s all about surrendering, again and again. I know I’ll be surprised. I always am.

 

 

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