"To sculpt the David within"
All his contemporaries had envisioned David in a victorious stance, with the slain head of Goliath, alongside as a testimonial of sorts.
Donatello and Verrocchio had depicted the hero standing victorious over the head of Goliath, and Andrea del Castagno had shown the boy with Goliath's head rested between his feet.
Michelangelo's depiction is consistent with the Renaissance practice of depicting its subjects in a "dynamic " just prior to action. It attempts to catch the moment between conscious choice and conscious action. It symbolises an angst, coupled with a certain confidence, a blend of both being required in perfect measure to ensure victory.
He would work on the massive biblical hero for more than two years.
David was sculpted out of a “ruined” block of marble rejected by all of his contemporaries. Michelangelo said that he instantly envisaged the image he was seeking to create when he saw the block of partially sculpted monolith.
He then needed only to chip away at all that did not look "David" to reveal the masterpiece.
In that moment, he had a very clear, unambiguous image of David in his mind.
We all have lurking within ourselves, a David, that eagerly awaits to be uncovered. Uncovering the David within, is what each one is capable of.
It requires tools like honesty, pragmatism, determination, discipline, clarity and industriousness. It also requires a great deal of motivation to chisel away all that is not "David" gradually but definitively . Those who cannot see the concealed "David" within, it's a process of trial and error, that at times unveils glimpses of "Goliath" . There are a fortunate few, who have a very clear image of their own David
Such fortunate souls get on with their task with amazing clarity. They take the appropriate tools, measures, efforts, and work on themselves steadfastly. Their demeanour is a picture of conviction, self assurance and confidence. They are not affected by any trials or tribulations they might encounter on their chosen path. The call of their David within is very strong and serves to guide every blow that lands on the chisel. There is no remorse at losing what is "Non David". Each piece that is shaved off, falls effortlessly leaving behind no scar or injury. These shaved off bits are temptations, distractions, indulgences, weaknesses, limitations, emotional baggage and diffidence.Their removal not only adds more meaning, shape ,aesthetics and beauty to the figure, but also makes it much lighter.
Giving a blow requires courage, strength and a very clear image of ones own "David". Patience is also a mandatory virtue as oftentimes, the monolith is unyielding, stubborn, and excessive force when imparting the blow can disfigure. The chisel at times needs to be moved as it is struck to get those subtle curves and the finer nuances perfect. The dynamics of the blow also have a philosophy. They are not mere aggression but assertive, controlled passion coupled with a tenderness. The process of sculpting ones own "David" is a very gentle metamorphosis that doesn't leave residual rough edges of pain and grief. A certain ease and effortlessness were the hallmark of this "Michelangelo " method.
Michelangelo was not merely a very talented artiste but a great thinker of his times. His thoughts also reflected the "Renaissance" era he belonged to, and each sculpture of his was a reflection of "The Michelangelo Method"
The gist of this method as mentioned in historical References -
"To find your personal masterpiece, direct your mind, which is divinely inspired, to your inner self—your values, your passions and your strengths. Once you’ve uncovered your vision, commit to your goals with confidence. To be successful, you will need to plan carefully, creatively using your unique experience, obtain necessary support, and battle to overcome obstacles. In doing so, be sure to live with integrity, remaining true to yourself."
The human being, evolved as he is has the sharpest tool available for chiselling his own "David", the intelligence and capability of self-realisation. This enables him with the ability to comprehend and discriminate between "David" and "Non David" .
When all that is "Non David" is removed painstakingly, what remains as "David" is "pure unadulterated blissful consciousness , the " Self".
When we become "David" all that remains is only "David" and along with it comes the realisation that everything is a manifestation of "David" and
that everything "Non David" was merely an illusion.
The sculpting process in vedic philosophy is called the principle of "Neti Neti" .
Neti Neti, meaning, "Not this, Not this", is the method of Vedic analysis of negation. It is the cornerstone of Vedic inquiry. The seeker negates identification with all tangible,sensory interpretation of this world which is not the Atman, or realising it as Anatman. Through this gradual process he transcends all worldly experiences till nothing remains but the Self. He attains union with the Absolute by denying the body, name, form, intellect, senses and all limiting adjuncts and discovers what remains, the true “I” alone
The true self is an exalted awareness, a blissful state of simply being rather than becoming.
Dr Deepak Ranade
(The author is a consultant neurosurgeon)