“No Michaelangelo.”

A few days ago, after an intensive three-day burst of academic writing, I wrote this. I hope you enjoy it. 🙂


No Michaelangelo

“In the room the women come and go

Talking of Michaelangelo.” – Eliot, “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”

 

These words emerge without judgment,

Without the chapped feeling that skin has in winter.

No guilt spills out alongside blue-black ink,

For I have done my best to clarify, to polish,

To hew my thoughts into the stones of history.

 

Despite my name, I’m no Michaelangelo;

Though we were both touched by the seraph’s wing,

Our medium differs, in seed as well as fruit.

He sculpts with all the grandeur of the gods;

I write, my winged words pale shadows of their forms.

 

I won’t distort the envy that I feel:

At twenty-one, I couldn’t carve a stone,

Or use a chisel to reveal a face.

No rock-face spoke its ancient name to me.

Instead, I used my brazen words to obscure my point,

To dance around the edges of significance…

Some days and nights, I still perform that way.

More often, now, I feel a rush of bracing air,

Like frigid gales off frozen Baffin Bay,

As I can feel my pen impinge on truth.

Desire’s ancient onyx flame still stirs my soul

To point towards Reality with ink-stained hands.

 

I know that I’ll never sculpt a Hebrew warrior;

I feel that a lean gait that does not lope

Will forever vanish just beyond my eye.

That’s fine, because—just as the Lion says—

My story’s only ever told to me.

I will display my verdant purpose best

If I become myself. I cannot be another,

For these shortened limbs and scattered thoughts

Comprise my integrity, and waken in me

A desire for coherence, though not for unity.

I point towards the spires and buttresses

Of the great castle Diversity, in which all are stones.

I clamber over flying scaffolding

And scale its endless marble city walls;

I watch the living igneous rocks collide, combine,

And collect themselves into the columns of community.

 

Although my glasses are scratched and my hands still bleed,

Although I feel the wind blow through me with each step,

I will not yield to foe, fatigue, or fear.

My destiny is closer than I think,

Sitting at the curve of the road where I cannot see.

I feel the fullness of the living word that impels me;

I take my chisel and my hammer, and I tap away.

In hours, I may see an eye where none was there,

And in days, discern a graceful open ear.

I may not make the David, or even carve

A single bowl of grapes from sullen stones,

But what I make is worthy, for it’s mine.

It still reveals its gentle light to my waiting eye,

And sings its revelations to my sleeping thought.

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Inner Stories, part II. I am Smarter than a Fifth-Grader!

Very frequently, I encounter the question, “Mike, how did you know that?” or its first cousin, “Dude. How did you remember that?” My typical deadpan response is, “I read it.” Or, “I heard it somewhere.” Or: “I saw the video, and just remembered…”

As Will Hunting told the world in the movie that bears his name…when it comes to smarts, I can just play. :)Those who love me will tell you–quite justly!–that my intelligence is a kinda sensitive topic. I’ve had all manner of struggles, all through my life (even up to yesterday!), wherein I have questioned how smart I really am. I have, with and without reason, compared myself to others in terms of performance, and been crazy jealous of some people close to me.

I have cried for endless hours over very simple math problems; I have written sonnets in thirty to sixty minutes; I have learned, painstakingly, to cook scrambled eggs; I have been thrown for a loop by people’s behaviour time after time; and I have accepted thirty seconds of continuous applause from about five hundred people–dozens of whom were my family and friends!–for attaining a Master’s degree.Every day, I look in the mirror, and I tell myself that I am smart. At first, I had to say it three times: “I am smart. I am smart. I am smart.” Gradually, over time, my obsessive repetition has decreased somewhat. Important part: I am smart, in many different ways, and that intelligence contributes to what Pete Townshend once called “the real me.” 🙂

In particular, I possess four different kinds of intelligence.

1. Cognitive intelligence: I possess a vast and comprehensive ability to absorb, process, retain, synthesize, and create written and spoken information. More clearly: I can read and write really fast, and talk a blue streak. 🙂 I’m told I started talking in sentences, not words.

When I was very young, the minister in my home church commented–at least once in my memory–that I must have been reading the encyclopedia again, because I was using words that could only have come from that source. (Yes: I read the encyclopedia as a child.) I can read almost anything written in English, except legalese. (Trust me; I’ve tried. It doesn’t work.) In particular, I can read Karl Barth and interpret him for a non-theologian; I can read accounts of the wars in Bosnia and not blink; and I can at least try to understand the stock market. (For me, economics is an acquired taste.) I can write not-entirely-logical and deeply passionate Master’s theses; I can not only read a page from Emmanuel Levinas, but–after about thirty minutes–I might be able to tell you what two lines mean. And, as you can see, I can write blog-posts too. 🙂

I can both affirm and argue, once we set the terms of the conversation. I’ve had in-depth conversations with people about politics, linguistics, history, language, travel, and more. I can also have deeply emotive conversations in affirmative ways; more on that in a moment.

And can I create? Heck, yes; I can. Like I said, I can write complex English poetry in short bursts. I can also remember the words to thousands of songs, and their melodies too. I read voraciously about pop music, for reasons still not entirely clear to me. (When I figure that out, I’ll let you know more.) And what does the right pop song lend itself to? The expression of emotion.

2. Emotional intelligence: Unfortunately, I am not a full-blooded empath. That said, I’ve learned over the last ten or twelve years to listen carefully to what people say, and to the ways in which they say it. I’ve had deeply passionate conversations with people, and affirmed their persons without accepting their propositions. I like it best when I can do both, of course. Demonstrative consensus–that point when everyone not only agrees, but is really, truly happy about it–makes me exceedingly happy. 🙂

I struggle with passion in terms of close friendships with both women and men. I’ve talked about that here. Onwards. 🙂

3. Physical intelligence: when I learned to dance, and began to unlock the frustrating mystery that is my spatial disability, I began to realize that everything got easier to track with my eyes…and my reflexes got better too. I fall much more rarely; I can now catch a baseball, a fact that would have astonished my seven-year-old self; I can, as I’ve said before, run a kilometre and bike for three.

I can also cook. People make fun of me for how often I talk about this…but being able to bake a potato, cook scrambled eggs, and make simple vegetarian soups isn’t a laughing matter. Sometimes it’s been a matter of great pride for me. 🙂 And one of the best parts of physical intelligence? I have known what a woman’s lips feel like. I hope to know more of this phenomenon, sooner rather than later.

4. Spiritual intelligence: with the exception of certain cloudy days or weeks, I have been blessed with a consistently and deeply articulate sense of the Divine. Simply put: I can see God everywhere, and I want everyone else to see God as I do. This means that I can sing hymns (and again, pop songs!) in worship with great gusto; I can write prayers and sermons with both conviction and empathy, and I can write–and have written–letters concerning matters of justice, to some people in Toronto, and some who live elsewhere.

I am smart. I’m pretty sure that God made me that way. And I want to use my intelligence to edify, to educate, to entertain, and to express. 🙂