A Conversation with David
Michelangelo's statue reveals desire to step off his pedestal
Posted July 13, 2011
The fact that this meeting took place is astonishing; David resides in Florence, Italy, while Ed and John live in the United States. The conversation took place at Ed's home in New Jersey sometime between the hours of two and four in the morning of July 2, 2004. Ed, John and David engaged in a lively, albeit imaginative, discussion about men and masculinity.
Ed: "Hello David, and welcome to the interior of my home. This visit is a dream-come-true. A few years ago, my wife and I traveled to Florence and found it to be a magical city full of wonder, spirituality, and myth. And seeing you there was truly an inspiration."
David: "I am happy to be here Ed, and thank you for inviting me. Frankly, it feels good to get away from Florence for a while. It is more difficult than you can imagine standing alone and still in the Galleria year after year."
Ed: "I wouldn't know that particular experience, but I do know how uncomfortable it feels for a man to be still. A man needs to move about and have adventures."
David: "I agree. But it's not only the stillness that bothers me, but the fact that I am stuck. You see, inertia is a source of pain."
John: "Stuck? Inertia? ...I don't understand."
David: "Michelangelo [a soft smile creases David's face] created me to be a symbol of masculinity. We all know his genius and creative power. Michelangelo told me that the purpose of my life is to be a constant and unmovable image of the masculine ideal."
John: "Please... go on."
David: "When you gaze up at me I appear strong, larger-than-life. I am young, focused and brave. I am a warrior poised to kill Goliath. I hold the promise of hope and deliverance. I am well endowed with the tool of fertility and pose shameless in my naked vulnerability. I am beauty, strength, power, love, creativity, and perfection. I am the masculine supreme."
Ed: "I must admit, David, you are magnificent to behold."
David: "Thanks Ed, but that is not what I am trying to say. Let me explain.
I know my image appeals to you. It appeals to all men. As I said, you are responding to my virtue and ideal. But the actual experience of being this, and only this, ideal is what burdens me and causes so much of my invisible pain. Since 1504—that's 500 years—I have been expected to live within the confines of the ideal. What people don't understand is that I have been denied the experience of living a real life. And do you have any idea how sad and unhappy not living a full masculine life makes me feel?"
Ed: "Yes I do...well, maybe not. Are you saying that while stuck inside the ideal of masculinity you are missing out of the challenge of living within the complexity of a man's life?
John: "Then while we aspire to become more like you, a kind of god; you desire to live the life of someone like one of us, an ordinary mortal man? You envy our lives?"
David: "Yes. It's one thing to aspire toward the masculine ideal, and quite another to be imprisoned by it. Some nights, when all of Florence is asleep, I weep. I am so lonely and frustrated I swell with a primal urge to destroy. You see, an unfulfilled man is an angry man. Thank God I am about to kill Goliath. Goliath justifies my rage."
Ed: "I never imagined you were so unhappy or that you were living a one-dimensional life. That makes me sad."
David: "Don't feel sad Ed, just listen without shaming me. I am about to tell you something I have never spoken of before."
Ed: "OK David, I will listen."
David: "People who look at me want to see this young, brave, ideal man. But if truth be told, I am afraid. Goliath is huge, angry, and sinister. He can destroy me. You can't tell by looking at me, but I want to run. I want to go far away. I want to be someplace safe."
John: "You're afraid?"
David: "Yes. I believe I can kill Goliath, but I am not certain. People count on me and their lives depend on my effectiveness. I am under a lot of pressure and I feel very responsible. How can I not be afraid?
And here is something else you don't want to know about me. I am self-conscious of my body. Everyone sees beauty, but I see a body out of proportion. Look at the size of these hands. And my penis is always exposed and open to ridicule. And it is always soft. Oh, how I long for a complete sexual experience."
Ed: "Wow. I had no idea you had feelings. I am starting to feel sorry for you again."
David: "I don't need your pity, damn it. I need a friend. I am taking a chance to express my inner life to you. Pity evokes shame. All I need from you is quiet understanding. Besides, am I so different from you? Can't I hold the masculine ideal and have desires, feelings and needs? Are you so selfish that you want me to be stuck in stone just so you can feel better at my expense?"
Ed: "I am honored to be your confidant, David. Just give me a moment to adjust.
I think I have needed to see you as a fixed symbol of the masculine ideal. It's easier to keep you apart, to separate me from you. Your disclosure forces me to accept the fact that you are both the ideal and the real. In reality, they are not separate. This means that I, too, am a mix of the ideal and real. That fact challenges me to live a life that maximizes both aspects of my masculine nature. I am weak and strong, brave and afraid, wise and a fool, potent and impotent. And once I accept that fact, the questions become what do I make of it? What do I choose? What kind of life do I want to live?"
David: "Think of it as a risk. If I don't live out my full masculinity, I lose my soul but hold on to your idealized image of me. I don't have to feel or be confused. And if you don't understand that the ideal is in you, you lose living a big life but hold on to the illusion of safety. You don't need to strive or challenge all you need to do is float along."
John: "So you and I are equal. There is parity between us?"
David: "Yes. It is as if we are the fulfillment of each other."
John: "If we give each other permission to be real, we both gain dimension to our lives. And if we are both the ideal, we strive toward greatness. That process began as soon we started talking intimately with each other. I can feel it."
David: "This is what I hoped my visit with you would accomplish, Ed and John. I want to be alive and intimate...My God, I can feel stone turn to flesh."
Ed: "And fear is lifting from my soul."