Tag Archives: Michelangelo

The Adventure as Portrayed by Three Artists (Part 2)

In my previous post I mentioned that the painting by Homer illustrates the virtues of wisdom and courage as needed to recognize one’s calling in life and take the steps to begin the Adventure.  This is the first of three works representing the Adventure segment of the road to happiness.

The following sculpture by Michelangelo, David,  illustrates vividly the third required virtue – moderation or temperance.  The hero, while capable and courageous, is not boastful or proud.  He knows that his adventure is long and that much still needs to be accomplished to be victorious.  He can not rest or be lured away from the Adventure by the temptations of greed, power, and fame.

David by Michelangelo

David by Michelangelo

David is one of the most recognized heroes of all time. He is a symbol of courage, alertness, moderation, and duty. The twist of his body effectively conveys the feeling that he is in motion. There is debate among art scholars as to whether this statue displays David after he has made the decision to fight Goliath but before the battle has actually taken place, or after the defeat of Goliath. 

However, before the threshold to happiness can be reached, one final virtue is required – justice.

Davids and Goliaths

David by Michelangelo

David by Michelangelo

Last night I was watching a short BookTV interview of Malcolm Gladwell discussing his soon to be released new book – David And Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants.

At one point during the interview Mr. Gladwell was asked why is it that most Goliaths (large corporations, politicians, celebrities, etc.), with many successes in the past to be considered Goliaths, suddenly are beaten by Davids (the little guys) and disappear?  Or, why do Goliaths shoot themselves in the foot?  This is an excellent question!

Mr Gladwell answers the question by saying that Goliaths become too comfortable with their lives and rest on their past successes.  They stop innovating, become arrogant and forget where they came from, lose the courage to continue the struggle for the greater good, and refuse to break the cycle of the status quo.

We all can understand how hard it is to give up fame, fortune, and power, especially when it took some much time and effort to get.

I think that the great ancient philosophers, a few modern thinkers, and the masters of the fine arts knew what Mr Gladwell was saying, but they go an extra few steps in answering the question.  Many Goliaths shoot themselves in the foot for the same reasons that Mr. Gladwell mentions – they meet with many successes and stop.  The reason they stop is that they believe that they have reached the end and have all the prizes of life which they have won, and now they can rest.

What they don’t understand, and what the many myths and artists teach us, is that these successful people are fortunate to have the wherewithal to continue the call to adventure, if the call is accepted.  Many goliaths are beaten because they fail to accept this call, which requires courage, humility, moderation, justice, etc.  They cut short their own adventure and forego far greater rewards in the future than what they have accomplished to date.

Against all odds, David accepted the call and beat Goliath.  But as Michelangelo represents, David is not celebrating his triumph (he is not even holding the head of Goliath), he is simply resting knowing that there are many more trials that must be won before his adventure is complete.