If we learn not to overthink we can often do it with smaller, less important stuff, but we struggle with what we call the big stuff. Of course little and big stuff just refers to stuff your life trained you to think of a little versus the stuff your life taught you to think a lot.
In reality we’re all really works of art, so let us say that God or the universe created your base stone and now your parents are walking along a gorgeous cliff of fantastic marble. They see a piece they love and so they have a big chunk cut out of it, and they load it onto a land barge.
They brace it with timbers and they slowly drag it down the mountain to where you will become you. In this metaphor the chipping of your stone is like birth and infancy. You won’t remember it, but it’ll leave marks on your stone nevertheless and your mother will sure remember dragging you down that hill.
Next you’re in Michelangelo’s studio, where the raw potential of your stone begins to be shaped into the vision your parents imagined. They’re the ones that shape the early you, and in doing so they offer you fantastic opportunities while simultaneously camouflaging other potential versions of you. These include genetic memories that create physical issues from birth are like cracks that emerged during travel from the cliffs to the studio. They will impact what the stone can become, but not how much it can be valued.
Regardless of who we are, over time the Michelangelos of life will use friction to shape us, at first knocking off big chunks defined as male or female or black or white or athletic or brainy, and later as more refined choices, like electrical engineer or watercolour painter or pediatric nurse, or eventually as you’re known for being challenging, or soft, or wise.
As we age we begin to realize that the Michelangelo’s in our lives not only carve and shape us intentionally, but they also grind into our stone unconsciously as a side effect of their personal working style. Some areas will be rubbed so long and hard that over time they score the base stone so deeply that it cannot be hidden. This of course isn’t a fault in the stone, it’s a just a byproduct of being shaped by just a few artists near the start of life. Plus those artists will usually have been trained in the same family of artists, so they’ll all tend to grind the same spots out of the same habit.
As you age so too do the Michelangelos around you. They go from using hammers and chisels to just the chisels, and eventually they reduce to scraping, before later moving onto sanding and finally polishing. Each stage will refine us, and as we grow wiser we get wiser about only giving access to better artists,. Every stone has scars, but the wisest artists know how to make the most of them.
Everyone had parents. Everyone had someone–or a lack of someone–raise them, and those forces were the strongest in your life and they left the most indelible marks. Sometimes those lead to beautiful arcs in our life, and others just disrupted areas that would have otherwise gone smoothly. But there is no point in lamenting those scars any more than we lament the base that the sculpture must sit on. Far from being problems, these are just the essential elements of having been in the studio at all. No sculpture is created without them.
When we’re in a relationship and something really bothers us, it is literally caught in our groove. And it’s not our essential stone that’s reacting to it, it’s how we were impacted by childhood. So you can work your whole life searching for the best artists and yet like a bad tattoo, they can only do so much because they have no choice but to work with the unconscious choices that the early, less experienced artists left behind.
Your job in life is not to try to orient your sculpture so that no one sees your scars, nor are you supposed to wear yourself out trying to remove or hide the marks that others have left on them. Instead you are simply supposed to realise that every sculpture has them as a natural part of their creation.
Keep in mind, you can’t blame those early artists for screwing up, because later in life you suddenly realise that you too have been an artist, and through your blind ignorance to the fact that your actions were shaping others, you too will have accidentally scored some people’s stone. And it is understanding that –that inevitable chaining causal reality– that when understood, allows us to shift from being psychologically better, to finally achieving a sense we could call peace. That way it all makes more sense.
The world isn’t broken. People don’t need fixing. People simply need to stop believing that the world’s job is to create perfect sculptures. Instead we must accept that life is a verb. It’s not a statue, it’s the sculpting. And since we all need and are sculptors, and since we all will improve throughout life, suddenly what were failures become more like beautiful attempts at loving and artful creation, much the way childhood fingerpainting may not be good even though it’s gorgeous.
Thanks to our early life, if we look carefully we’ll find we often attract people that seem to have deep scars in their marble precisely where we’ve been trained to look for them. If your Dad yelled a lot, then you stand a good chance of marrying someone familiar like that (or the exact opposite). At that point you have two choices.
You can forever lament that they ended up with the same damage one of your sculptors had, or can note that they are looking right at your scars too. A lack of acceptance can mean you’re the worst possible people for each other, but an act of acceptance can make them the best possible person for you. Because one way you’re just staring at each other’s damage but ,at the same time, if you both focused on getting good at it, who’d possibly be better at overlooking at a fault than someone who spent their life around it?
Don’t lament that art needs sculptors, nor that sculptors get better by creating art. Simply focus your energy on not scarring anyone else more than than is necessary and then ignore what scars you can. Because every time we grind unproductively into into another person’s pain, we only serve to make the scar fresher and deeper.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.