There are two beautiful notions that speak to our innate yearning to release and be released by the Divine. What I mean by the Divine is the inherent quality of Spirit that informs everything in life.
One notion that speaks to the uncovering of the Divine is Michelangelo’s sense that the statue is already in the stone and that rather than create the statue, our task is to figure out a way to release it. The legendary sculptor would carve away the excess marble to reveal the statue already waiting in the block of uncut stone, as if he were freeing a prisoner from a deep sleep. Giorgio Vasari, the biographer of so many Renaissance artists, compared Michelangelo’s sculpting process to someone pulling a beautiful form from underwater. The form is complete but out of view until lifted into the world.
What’s powerful here is that this is what life does to us. Experience carves away all that is not essential from us until, like Michelangelo’s statues, we are released from our sleep and lifted into the world.
Another notion that speaks to the transference of the Divine is Carl Jung’s sense of the poet as a conduit for the collective unconscious, which I mentioned earlier. Jung sees the poet and the artist as a lightning rod for the aggregate of dreams, memories, and experiences of humanity, which come alive through the thoroughly personal story of the creative individual.
These two notions imply that everything already exists. For instance, you could look at the same patch of sea a hundred times. But one day when the light is right and you’re tired enough, you look at the rise and swell of the waves and it says something to you, something that parallels what’s growing or not growing inside you. Now, did the sea suddenly emanate more meaning? No. The world is steadily infusing us with the Divine, depending on the level of our openness.
As human beings, we are a beautiful braid of the infinite and the finite. While our being is bottomless, our humanness has limits. That’s the curse-blessing that has us looking everywhere for what’s right before us and within us.
Releasing the numinous quality of Spirit that informs everything through our creativity and expression is the way of all art, which leads us to the purpose of all art, which is to enliven our inherent kinship with all things.
A Question to Walk With: In your journal, experiment with Michelangelo’s sculpting process by working with the blank page. Instead of aiming or planning to write something, imagine that a poem or story or passage is waiting fully formed in the blank page, waiting for you to release it.
This excerpt is from my new book, Drinking from the River of Light, published this fall by Sounds True.
*Photo credit: Keegan Everitt