[This entry is cross posted at ordinary-times.com]
In the mid-nineties I had the opportunity to tour St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. It sounds silly to say given the setting, but on viewing Michelangelo’s Pieta I had a near religious experience. There was no Coleridge mentally prompting me as he did his tourist at the waterfall, because no prompting was needed. It is sublime. Every curve and fold amazes. Mary’s sorrow hidden near one and a half thousand years in marble until one man set his gifts to reveal it is terrible to behold. I’ve never been stabbed so I can’t say for certain that the metaphor fits, but my reaction to the work was immediate, deep, and unexpected. Tears welled and ran down my cheek. It was not pretty.
The Pieta is a reminder of what man is capable of. It’s humbling and inspiring at the same time. We all have some creative bent we indulge. He may not be Michelangelo, but the hobbyist guitar player who’ll never quite get bar chords right is following that same urge towards the divine. As a race we strive towards a perfection we can never achieve, but the likes of Beethoven, Austin, and Yeats leave behind spectacular failures to remind us how close we can get.Continue reading