Could your life have a Michelangelo-grade sense of purpose?

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?

5 thoughts on “Could your life have a Michelangelo-grade sense of purpose?

  1. As always, a great lead in from something so monumental to something so relevant to our day to day lives. We can’t all be Michelangelos or any of the other Greats that we read about. Perhaps our equivalent these days is the celebrity cult that makes young people feel worthless unless they appear on YouTube/Instagram…

    I’m about to go to an exercise class -the first one ever in my life that I’ve been able to stick to. After a year of twice weekly attendance, friends are suddenly saying that I look well. They weren’t saying anything after one or two months. There was no perceptible change…it’s taken a long while, during which I often couldn’t imagine that anything would change.
    Perhaps all of us have a “block of marble” which needs patient carving to get the right result.

  2. Sometimes there are obstacles that block our way to finding a sense of purpose. Removing those obstacles is not always easy. I find that by chipping away at them a little at a time and doing just one small thing a day or a week, I am beginning see a new path through life. A path with a purpose.

  3. Hi Jon

    This one got me thinking…

    My life doesn’t have a purpose and I’m really ok with that. Didn’t used to be, always felt like i needed to find something that was key, that was my unique talent; or do or achieve now i’m happier without purpose, just trying to be me, in time/space in this vast world/universe that we live.

    Maybe I need one though…for motivation, not sure, I will give it some more thought.

    Thank-you for your posts, Lydia

  4. Love this one, Jon. I let it simmer on the back burner for a few days before responding. And I see a correlation with my own life regarding purpose.

    Michelangelo has been attributed with the following quote:

    “The sculpture is already complete within the marble block, before I start my work. It is already there, I just have to chisel away the superfluous material.”

    What a wonderful analogy for the process of finding one’s purpose in life.

    It’s already inside us, waiting to be discovered and released. All we have to do is “chisel away the superfluous material” that gets in the way, puts us on the wrong path, or distracts us like shiny objects. We overthink about what we’re good at, what gives us joy, while we tend to run away from those aspects of our lives we’re ashamed of, that we fear lessen our significance or make us look like fools.

    More often than not, those turn out to be the parts that comprise the complete sculpture that’s waiting to be released. We only need to find the courage to pick up the tools and chisel away.

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