One day I’m hoping to make it to the Accademia di Belle Arti di Firenze. Ever since I hear of Michelangelo’s unfinished sculptures of slaves. The four figures appear to be trying to free themselves from the stone which imprisons them.
When I saw them, they epitomised the Human struggle to be free, to become our true selves. Some travel through their whole lives without becoming free. I’m still struggling -some days are better than others.
Three words which help me, and which fascinate me by their depth or layers, are Humility, Gratitude, and Faithfulness.
Humility frees me because it overcomes both prideful and self-deprecating notions of self-worth. There’s a dependency for those who think they’re better than others, as well as those who think they’re not good enough – both depend on what others think of them. Humility is freeing because we know who we are and who we can become, in relation to others and to the world in which we find ourselves.
Gratitude tackles the greed and dissatisfaction we experience when we believe we need more; instead we see how much we have and how we can make more available to others. When people live with a sense of dissatisfaction, their worldview can be one of scarcity, they never feel they have enough to give to others or enough resources to begin a venture. Gratitude frees us to know we have enough to do something right now.
Faithfulness takes on the foolishness which rules when pride and greed reign unchecked. How can we hope for a more Human world when we think we’re better than others and deserve more. Foolishness repeats old behaviours, believing there’ll be a different outcome this time. Faithfulness makes it possible to make the (often small and repeated) steps we need to take in direction of others and our planet.
Some interesting research focused on six life aspirations; three were extrinsic as the rewards (do this and you get this) – being wealthy, famous, and physically attractive – and three were intrinsic as they provided their own reward – satisfying personal relationships, contributing to the community, and growing towards one’s greater Self (they don’t need to lead anywhere else, they are satisfying enough).
It was a complicated piece of research intended to show up what happened with mental and psychological health if those involved showed high extrinsic or intrinsic aspirations. They managed to uncover greater wellbeing amongst those who showed strong intrinsic aspirations.