The story goes that when Michelangelo was asked how he carved the sculpture of David out of a single block of marble, he replied, “I chipped away everything that wasn’t David.”
There are many ways to sculpt a life. Some people know early on, truly know, what their passion is, what they want, and how they will go about creating the masterpiece called the next step, maybe even an entire life. They see their own David clearly, perhaps just as Michelangelo saw his David within the stone.
Others live by default, avoiding precise decisions, saying “I don’t know” or “Whatever” to any questions and events that come their way. At some point they are left with a life not their own, something created willy-nilly and haphazardly that jolts them awake one fateful day with the earth-shaking question, “What happened?”
Yet even with the precious gift of knowing a default life isn’t an option, it happens more often than not that livelihoods, relationships, creative endeavors, places to live, and other vital choices of a lifetime can loom large and seemingly unyielding as a huge block of marble.
Instead of struggling to envision what lies within your own as-yet-unfinished masterpiece, another approach is to chip away at what one does not want, what does not serve, does not apply, what does not offer up satisfaction, curiosity, connection, beauty, or excitement. Once the excess, unnecessary, unacceptable, and inauthentic are gone, energy and space and inspiration are freed up. It’s time to ask what this sculpted life will look like.
What is essential? What makes me feel vital and alive? What moves and shakes and stirs the passion and creativity within me? What is it that only I can see, or do, or imagine? Then comes the act of chiseling, slowly and intentionally, toward the form and shape and movement of what is waiting to be lived. This creation is to be enjoyed, and treasured. Taking one’s time—slowly and intentionally—is an important concept when sculpting a life.
As Cavafy wrote in his poem Ithaca:
“…pray that the road is long, / full of adventure, full of knowledge… / do not hurry the voyage at all. / It is better to let it last for many years…”