It seems I’m feeling a bit arty these days. Here is a story, probably apocryphal, about Leonardo Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper.
It is said that it took Da Vinci nearly 20 years to finish the painting because he was meticulous about the people he would use as models. From the beginning he struggled, because he could not find the right person to represent Jesus. Da Vinci wanted someone whose face shone with purity, nobility, compassion and strength, as well as strong physical beauty. He wanted someone who radiated virility. Finally he found a young man with exactly these characteristics, and he was the first figure that Da Vinci painted into the picture. The he found and painted in the eleven apostles. He left Judas Iscariot for last since he could not find quite the right model. For Judas, Da Vinci wanted a mature person whose face bore the marks of treason and avarice. For years the painting and Da Vinci waited. Then, he heard of a terrible criminal in the city jail. He went to see him, and the man countenance was exactly what Da Vinci wanted. So, the artist sought out the mayor as requested that the criminal be allowed to pose for him. At this point Da Vinci’s reputation was solidly established, and so the mayor gave his approval, and gave orders for two guards to take the man to Da Vinci’s studio. The man was to be chained and under the control of the guards at all times. Da Vinci thanked the mayor, and the entourage left for his studio.
As the criminal posed and Da Vinci painted, the man showed no emotion, but held himself quietly and dispassionately maintaining a defiant distance from Da Vinci and the guards. Finally, Da Vinci was satisfied with his work and the result. He showed the criminal the painting. When the man saw it, he stared, and then fell on his knees in tears.
Da Vinci was taken with the abrupt change in the man, and asked him what was going on. The man replied, “Master Da Vinci, do you not remember me?”
Da Vinci looked at him carefully, and replied, “I am sorry but I do not.”
The man continued to cry, and said, “May God forgive me for my life. I was the youth that you choose as your model for Jesus 19 years ago.”
The moral of this story is that no matter how much physical beauty you posses, it is the inner beauty and strength of character; it is the choices that you make that become etched in your face and your being. Your character is shaped by your choices and your action. That is what will ultimately show on your face and shine in your eyes.
If we will build a world where fairness and dignity are respected, we all need to learn to look deeply. We need to build our own characters with thoughtful, compassionate choices. We need to choose our friends … well, you get it, yes?