By Cathy Eck
My Michelangelo Obsession Confession
In the summer of 2010, I left a life I knew for 33 years and traveled cross-country to start over. In late October 2010, my friend sent me Rob Brezsny’s Free Will astrology reading from the local paper for the week of my birthday. It struck home because my biggest concern at the time was: Do I return to accounting where I’m accepted and unchallenged, or do continue my research where I’m unknown and considered a bit crazy?
“Michelangelo didn’t think of himself as primarily a painter. Sculpture was his first love. Yet in 1508 he was coaxed into painting prodigious frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. As he worked for four years, covering 12,000 square feet with sublime images, he sometimes complained and felt resentful. The project took him away from two large sculptures he would have preferred to be working on. He feared his enemies had convinced the Pope to give him this task in order to demonstrate how mediocre his painting was. But today his work in the Sistine Chapel is regarded as a masterpiece. I suspect that in 2011 you may face a version of Michelangelo’s dilemma, Scorpio: being offered a job you don’t consider your forte. It’s quite possible, however, that accepting this “diversion” will yield interesting results.”
Thus began my obsession with Michelangelo, which culminated in a magnificent trip to the Vatican to see his work first hand. I felt a sort of bonding of wounds with Michelangelo. I, too, had a constant feeling that people wanted something from me other than the gift that I was born to give. I was familiar with the emotion of resentment that arises when we try to squeeze our True Self into a very small box. I, too, wondered if some evil force was conspiring to keep me from being my True Self.
I was Successful to Everyone But Me
When I was a CPA, people often told me that I was born to do that work. I easily rose up the ladder of success. Even when I did something wrong, people ignored it. I was deemed flawless. Then I became an entrepreneur and expert in systems design. Once again, people listened to anything I said without question. I was flown all over the world. People gave me money for doing nothing.
But inside, I was like Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel. Yes, I had prestigious clients. I was viewed as an expert, and no one questioned my authority. But something felt off to me because I still believed that I had to package my gift in an acceptable false self wrapper.
Michelangelo’s True Self Speaks
Michelangelo’s fresco of God creating the sun and shooting the moon to earth was said to be directly over the place where the Pope stood. Michelangelo knew that the teachings of religion were false, but he saw himself as powerless to change them. He was silent in words, but he could not contain the truth in his art because it was his gift.
Yet no one complained about that frame. They made up their own acceptable explanation because they presumed that Michelangelo thought like them. False selves do that. Their mind somehow translated his insult into something acceptable. As obvious as it is to us that the Pope was being mooned by God, even the Pope didn’t see it because he didn’t have the eyes to see.
Michelangelo’s wisdom began to speak to people during renovation work. They were standing in Michelangelo’s shoes on similar scaffolding, and suddenly they saw the ceiling from his eyes. They laughed because the ceiling was a virtual comic book. For hundreds of years, no one had noticed his jokes. They were implanted during a time when they would have been unacceptable, and they were finally seen at a time when they are the perfect message for the new age of awakening.
Our True Self Shines Through the Cracks
Often when we clear something significant from our mind, we feel naked, alone, and afraid. We see a completely different world than the masses. As Gloria Steinem said, “The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.” It is that stage of being pissed off that often causes people to turn back. To move on, we have to express ourselves within the trappings of society. Michelangelo did that by expressing his truth on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel right under the eyes of the pope.
I was in the business world when I realized that initiation can’t be avoided. Thousands of years ago, initiation took place in temples. Initiates were hidden from the real world and trained by powerful initiators. That doesn’t exist anymore.
Initiation now takes place in the real world, in real jobs, and real relationships. Our tests are about being our True Self among friends, relatives, and bosses. Initiation is about putting your stamp on something even when you are given strict rules or told that you must obey. The goal of the initiate is to learn the power of our True Self and to realize that our True Self can’t be dimmed. It will shine through the smallest of cracks.
Michelangelo took the commission of painting the Sistine Chapel because he needed the money, but he painted it his way. I’m sure there were moments when he wondered if his rebellion would be noticed putting his life in jeopardy. But it wasn’t. In fact, his message remained pure in the most impure of locations. Today, people finally have the eyes to see the true wisdom of Michelangelo; I hope he is happy.
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