After leisurely strolling through galleries filled with Michelangelo and Leonardo's sketches, designs, and sculptures, mostly of the human form, I did a triple-take at the above quote written in large white letters high up on the museum wall. A simple, obvious statement, that seemed to hold so much truth about humanity.
Adding on is great: we learn and grow in many ways throughout life by adding on. But there is something especially beautiful in the refining art of taking away. Of finding the beauty hidden within.
The taking away of chiseling off chunks of marble. Of marble marred with a black streak; of perfectly good marble! But masking the beauty of a masterpiece.
~~~Walking back to the train station I couldn't help but notice how absolutely gorgeous the everyday people around me are. The form of the neck of the woman in front of me with her head twisted down, the way that businessman's pants fold as he walks up the escalator, the lines and variations in lips and noses and cheekbones (and oops! Not staring I promise. *awkwardly quit making eye contact with all these gorgeous people).
But at the same time, I was saddened by how much more full of life Leonardo's 15th century sketches seemed compared to the actually alive faces around me. And wondered whether I look just as done at the end of a work-day. Or if maybe part of Leonardo's genius was showing the life hidden within that can't be seen at a glance walking by.
I wonder if we all need a little more of the art of taking away. The taking away that finds the beauty and life in others, and in ourselves. The taking away of saying "no" to some good things, in order to prioritize the best. Of chiseling off hours spent working overtime, or worrying, or on social media; of packing all our time in the guise of a rich, full life, stuffing ourselves with accomplishments and productivity and glowing screens.
What could we chisel away, or allow to be chiseled away, to become more in the image of the masterpiece we were created to be?