comforting. peaceful. serene.
lost. distraught. pleading.
two different scenes. two different attitudes. two different tones. two different emotions.
one author. David.
the David was a commissioned work. other artists tackled it first, one hewing out the space between the legs before deciding the stone was no good. other artists seemed to have similar assessments about the quality of the stone. though selected from the choice limestone quarries in Carrara, it seemed brittle and weak. assuming it a wasted investment, the church let the stone lie in a courtyard on its back in sun, rain, and snow for 25 years.
but it was still called the David. boring church paperwork declared it such. the commission was still in effect, if any could salvage what was now basically garbage. garbage that “artists” whose names we don’t recognize had damaged by trying and giving up. even Leonardo da Vinci examined it, but dismissed it as bad stone.
Michelangelo begged the council for the job, and began work in 1501. Michelangelo was in his early twenties.
the legend goes that he put up curtains all around his studio so no one could interfere with his process. after a few months, one of the patrons went to check on his investment. when he arrived, it seemed the reports were true. Michelangelo had bought materials, hired labor, and eaten his meals. but when the patron entered Michelangelo’s make-shift tabernacle, the stone stood there, upright, untouched.
a few yards away, Michelangelo sat, looking at the stone.
“Michelangelo,” the patron demanded, “what are you doing?”
“sto lavorando,” was the reply. “i’m working.”
in 1504, what was meant to be just one of a series of twelve figures to adorn the Florentine Duomo was instead placed in the center of the city, as if to say “this is who we are!”
it has come to symbolize all of art history — a masterpiece of not just sculpture but all of human creation. many have no doubt sought to capture the story of David in many mediums. but this isn’t known as Michelangelo’s David. it’s craftsmanship is so deep and complete, now 500 years later, it is to us simply “the David”.
two assessments. “it’s garbage.” “it’s Divine!” two attitudes. “it’s useless.” “it defines us!” two responses. “throw it away.” “i must have it.” two approaches. “it’s damaged.” “i will release the angel inside.”
how does David write psalm 23… AND psalm 39? was he manic-depressive? bipolar? super emotional? immature? are they separated by decades — the hope of a shepherd versus the burden of a chased king?
even Samuel in all of his Holy communion with The Lord looked on David and said, “surely not him.”
but God said, “man sees the outside, but I see the heart.”
God said that David was a man after His own heart. that David chased after His heart. that David pursued God’s heart. sought it with everything he had. David the boy. David the King. David the adulterer. David the prophet. David the uneducated farmer. David the brutally, violently, passionately, vigorously genuine.
heart of stone
some days, i want to take psalm 23 and throw it on the ground.
what fairy tale is this? “i shall not want?” who’s he kidding? where is my overflowing cup? where’s the protection, the safety? where’s the pasture? the still waters?
some days, psalm 39 makes a lot more sense to me.
my heart of stone knows that psalm 23 is true, that it will be true. that John 10:10 is true, that it can be, will be true. but right now? right now is horrible sometimes. sometimes i feel like garbage with a hole in it, forgotten under rotting leaves and fallen snow.
at the bottom of the pit, David cries out, “what are You waiting for? why are You silent? God… what are You doing?”
in infinite wisdom and compassion, the Master Artist must have bored deep into David’s fragile, exposed, bloody, heart of flesh to speak: “Sto lavorando…”