‘[Benvenuto] Cellini hated veneers. … It had to be pure, so that things would look like they are.’*
‘Wisdom is the art of living well.’**
Whatever the metal, goldsmith and sculptor Benvenuto Cellini wanted it to be what it was: let brass be brass and gold be gold. Don’t lay gold over brass.
For good or ill, it appears that Cellini lived without veneer.^
Personal purity involves removing impurities too, the things that get in the way of being who we choose to be. This is complex. It’s not only about being who we are most of all now, but also who we can be in the future. To this end, we need to remain open to the more that comes from outside of us – from our world, from others who are not like us, even from the universe itself: the kind of things that open up more possibilities, providing us with greater choice:
“I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to me less afraid,
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise …”^^
Freedom to be what others need us to be is further complexity. This towards their flourishing is one of the greatest gifts we can bring into the world. Somehow, something that is fulfilling and satisfying to us and meets the needs of others is one of the most joyful things in the universe. When we can trust our urge, then:
‘Whatever excites you, go do it. Whatever drains you, stop doing it.’*^
These are purifying practices, letting go of all that gets in the way in order to do what we feel we are made to do: to be the wing, the torch, the promise for others.
Two things to help your pondering.
The following words came to mind when I was thinking of this pure, good thing inside every person; it is followed by the truth that you have enough to begin right now:
(*From Richard Sennett’s The Craftsman.)
(**From John Ortberg’s All the Places.)
(^See Richard Sennett’s The Craftsman. Benvenuto Cellini certainly lived a life of great diversity: ‘Born in Florence in 1500, Cellini was variously imprisoned for sodomy and the father of eight children; an astrologer, poisoned deliberately [twice] …; the murderer of a postman; a naturalised French citizen who loathed France; a soldier who spied for the army he fought against; … the catalogue of such amazing incidents is endless.’)
(^^Dawna Markova, quoted in the Northumbria Community‘s Morning Prayer.)
(*^Derek Sivers, quoted in Austin Kleon’s Show Your Work.)
(^*From Gerard Manley Hopkins God’s Grandeur.)
(⁺From Michael Heppell’s How to be Brilliant.)