I Forgot How Wonderful Italian Men are for the Ego

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Upon my first look at the David, in 2002, all I needed in life at that moment was to reach up and curl my fingers into his oversized hand.

Ten years ago I studied in Florence, living down the alley from the Ponte Vecchio that glimmered with gold jewellery for sale, eating gelato at least once a day, and feeling history with my own two hands.

My first boyfriend/love/etc. had broken up with me a few days before I embarked on a semester abroad in Italy. I lived with such heartbreak in those few months, healing through the support of friends – late nights at bars drinking the rum and pear special, walking an hour to get to a restaurant and peeing in an alleyway on the return – and healing through the support of time – centuries of color, revolution, renaissance, marble, dualities, brilliance, enlightenment, struggle. To live in Florence was to live in art – stepping from one painting into another.

In those days, I built a self-image in the wake of what I thought was rejection of my raw truth. And, to cope, I built stories into my identity, to justify everything I felt that I needed to justify, to hang onto some kind of arbitrary ground under my feet.

And returning to Florence ten years later, I unexpectedly recognized the places where I had sunk into blurred and meaningful conversations with friends, passed over the misjudged cobblestones leading to my apartment, and rounded the corners where I turned into memory.

On the second visit, traversing the same streets, I noticed different details than I did previously – the way the light sprawls against Florentine walls and the rhythmic movement of rooted statues – and I acknowledged that I am deconstructing the self-image that I tried so hard to build ten years before. I know, for now at least, that I actually don’t want to have ground under my feet. To have no ground and no image is to be free – accepting – intentional – loving.

Looking at the David, now, I still cannot will my eyes away from him.

Instead of needing to reach out to his hand, though, my eyes gravitate around his body to recognize his adam’s apple, his curving hip bone, or new feeling from the look in his eyes. We view the same image years apart, connecting to different details at different times – whatever we need to notice in that infinite moment – and it is exactly what we need to see.

Michelangelo, in the early 16th century, sculpted David disproportionately – an elongated torso, an oversized hand, a shifty left eye. He is acknowledged as a perfect image of man, and perhaps his misproportions are man’s truths. Our truths that we create, fondle, change, reform are each perfect in their time and place. They are an oversized hand we want to hold. Or they are a new look that we recognize in our own eyes.

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{See Cloud Cult, You’ll Be Bright (Invocation Part 1)}

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