This poem of Michelangelo conflicted by his own gift and the sense of “obligation”/commitment that he might felt toward it comes to me in a very particular time.
One of my best friends is struggling with all the demands that her new work implies. I was impressed by how well she had put up with the long hours, no weekends, absorbing stress and no complaints.
“She’s enjoying it, she most really love this job” i thought. Until now, after reading Michelangelo lines, not only the complaining but the why? issue it’s what it got me.
Why do we do what we do if it’s so painful? : Responsibility or duty?, Conviction?
I feel like perhaps, complaining gives us the same effect of patting one’s shoulder, we are letting out our frustrations and all our bitterness (caused by wherever subject we are complaining about). But at the same time we are acknowledging that we are standing still, we aren’t quitting, we are in so much suffering but we are also yelling: ¡Admire me, i’m pulling it off!
Even if it means to doubt of ourselves real purpouse or talent. Maybe we put ourselves through difficulty because we know we can overcome it. It attracts us, the challenge, the complexity.
“I think our cycles of depression and despair are part of what we relish and crave. They’re part of our cycle of understanding and creating”. Robert Pinsky
Michelangelo: To Giovanni da Pistoia When the Author Was Painting the Vault of the Sistine Chapel 1509 (translated by Gail Mazur)
I’ve already grown a goiter from this torture,
hunched up here like a cat in Lombardy
(or anywhere else where the stagnant water’s poison).
My stomach’s squashed under my chin, my beard’s
pointing at heaven, my brain’s crushed in a casket,
my breast twists like a harpy’s. My brush,
above me all the time, dribbles paint
so my face makes a fine floor for droppings!
My haunches are grinding into my guts,
my poor ass strains to work as a counterweight,
every gesture I make is blind and aimless.
My skin hangs loose below me, my spine’s
all knotted from folding over itself.
I’m bent taut as a Syrian bow.
Because I’m stuck like this, my thoughts
are crazy, perfidious tripe:
anyone shoots badly through a crooked blowpipe.
My painting is dead.
Defend it for me, Giovanni, protect my honor.
I am not in the right place—I am not a painter.
Gail Mazur, “Michelangelo: To Giovanni da Pistoia When the Author Was Painting the Vault of the Sistine Chapel,” from Zeppo’s First Wife. © 2013 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved.