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  • Claire Vorster

The Best Angels Have Scars

I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.’

Michelangelo, Italian sculptor

How do you carve an angel from a block of marble? How do you make something beautiful when you can’t see any beauty? How do you find possibilities in impossible situations, or discover inspiration under the guise of monotony?

The simple answer, as Michelangelo learned, is one chip at a time.

Here are some questions for you. What do you see under your block of stone? What kind of angel do you want to carve? Do you have a dream you have put on hold or a transformation you want to make? Do you like where you are and who you have become?

Before you take your chisel to the block, you have to know what you are looking for. Without a blueprint, there’s just a heap of rubble. Sounds simple, but sometimes life has a habit of becoming a habit. Sometimes we loose the plot, get bogged down or caught in the headlights.

So now you have your angel in mind, what’s next?

You pick up your chisel and start chipping. You are going to need determination to carve an angel. You have to stay the course, grip the hammer and keep at it. Some days you may feel like you will never make it. Those are the days to take a step back, take a walk somewhere you like, put down your tools and phone a friend.

Do not be discouraged. I’m working on my angel, so is everyone else you know in one shape or form. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, especially from someone who has been there before you. Baby steps are what you take until you learn how to walk. Nobody gets to be a master carver in a day. It’s going to take time.

The other thing about carving marble (I know this because I sold natural stone for a while) is that sometimes you hit a vein or a weak spot and it breaks. A bit frustrating let’s face it. Just when you thought you were getting somewhere, your angel goes all wonky. Wonky means the following. Unbalanced or unstable, especially relating to one’s mental state. Off kilter, like a loose wheel on a cart. Obsessed with the details. Somewhat eccentric.

It’s OK if your angel goes wonky, you just get to take a deep breath and carve a slightly different one. The best angels have scars. It doesn’t have to be perfect, in fact it probably won’t be!

Let me introduce you to Dr. Marc Levoy – he is someone who knows. Dr. Levoy is a Professor of Computer Science and (jointly) Electrical Engineering at Stanford University, on a year’s sabbatical he learned to carve in marble. Here’s what he learned:

"Marble is an unforgiving medium… Mistakes cannot be fixed, except by changing the design. A single blow made with the chisel angled incorrectly can crack a block or break a delicate protrusion… Finally, I learned the enormous satisfaction that comes from creating something enduring with my own hands."

So there you have it. Dr Levoy is a highly intelligent, successful man and even his attempts at carving went a bit wonky. Wonky or not, he was happy to have carved his block of marble. He did it, and so can you. And you know what?

"Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step." Martin Luther King Jr.

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