Early on this very morning (September 13th) 517 years ago, Michelangelo began chipping away at a block of marble, more than 17 feet tall.
Just under three years later, it had been turned into the work of art most regard as Michelangelo’s masterpiece: his statue of David immediately before his battle with Goliath.
To have turned over six tons of marble into one of the world’s most iconic sculptures in only 33 months, Michelangelo was clearly a man with a mission, living a life of true purpose.
However, rather than Michelangelo finding this sense of purpose himself in 1501, it’s more the case that the purpose found him.
You see, for the whole of the artist’s 26-year life, that marble block had been more or less abandoned in the yard of the cathedral workshop in Florence.
In fact, the sculptor Agostino had actually started rudimentary work, later abandoned, on the stone eleven years before Michelangelo was even born.
I wonder. Do you feel your own life has a sense of purpose?
Of course, it doesn’t need to be one with the monumental scale of Michelangelo’s.
But having something to live for—that gives your life meaning—is an incredibly potent force.
In fact, a recent report in the New Scientist suggests that a sense of purpose “helps prevent heart attack and stroke, staves off dementia, enables people to sleep better, have better sex, and live longer.”
Seriously, what’s not to like about that?
Of course, there are likely to be times in your life, as there have been in mine, when life’s purposefulness may seem wanting.
However, while there might not be a six ton block of marble waiting with your name on it, I firmly believe that looking around you can reveal opportunities for you to make a difference – to carve out your own meaning.
Keep your eyes, ears, and mind open for worthwhile causes or projects.
Perhaps they will involve connection to another person, or to a group.
They might even entail caring for a garden, riverbank bank, or urban environment.
The thing is, you don’t need to start big.
Putting a toe in the water can make a lot of sense.
So, on Michelangelo’s timescale, what could you start today that might bear fruit in, say, 33 months?
That would be June 2021, not that far away actually.
Why not celebrate Michelangelo today, then, and look around you for your own version of his marble block?