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Build Your Own Cathedral

Articles Inspirational articles from Hay House authors

Build Your Own Cathedral

What makes a worthy occupation?
Michael  Neill
Michael Neill More by this author
Oct 17, 2009 at 10:00 AM

I have two pictures on the wall of my office. One is a reproduction of the hand of God giving the spark of life to Adam, an enlarged close-up based on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel; the other is a cartoon Scooby Doo poster signed by the original voice cast as well as the actors who voice SpongeBob SquarePants, Johnny Bravo, and Samurai Jack. (Check out Scooby-Doo and The Legend of the Vampire at your local video shop to hear my contribution to the madness!)

As it happens, one of my absolute favorite things in the world to do is to voice cartoons. The problem is that for years I didn't feel it was a 'worthy' profession, and I constantly threatened myself, my wife, my agent, and anyone else who would listen that at any moment I was going to go off, quit the business, and do something worthwhile with my life.

The situation came to a head about a year ago when I was on the phone with a friend in the UK. I was telling him about a fantastic audition I had just been on to play a cartoon mouse in the Clifford the Big Red Dog series when he asked me if I wanted to leave immediately to join him in a risky but potentially groundbreaking peace mission to the Middle East. When I brought the dilemma to my coach, he suggested I vividly imagine pursuing both life choices to the fullest before making a decision.

I began by imagining myself staying in Hollywood and pursuing my voice-over career with renewed vigor. In my mind, it was only a matter of time before I would be starring in an amusing Disney series about a gopher named “Sven” who spoke with a lisp, and children across America would be imitating my comic delivery of Sven's controversial catch-phrase, “How ‘bout those crazy Yankees!”

I then imagined myself going to the Middle East and getting actively involved in the peace process. I met more people than I could ever remember by name, saw more pain and suffering each year than I would otherwise have encountered in a lifetime, and experienced a depth of love and connection that brought tears to my eyes.

And yet... all I could think about was that maybe after it was all over, I would be able to come back to Hollywood and do Clifford the Big Red Dog!

My coach then told me a story which although I had heard it many times before, had never struck me as to just how relevant it was to my own life:

Michelangelo was on his way to visit the Pope when he came across three stonemasons at work on the foundations of the Sistine Chapel. When he saw the first, a somewhat dour fellow repetitively chipping away at a huge slab of rock, he asked him what he was doing.

“What does it look like I'm doing?” the surly laborer replied. “I'm chipping away at a huge slab of rock.”

A bit further along, he saw another workman doing a similar job, but with a bit more focus and intent.

When asked what he was doing, the workman scarcely looked up.

“What does it look like I'm doing?” he said. “I'm supporting a home for the woman and children I love.”

Before he could go any further, Michelangelo noticed that the third stonemason was working as if possessed by joy.

“What are you doing?” asked a curious Michelangelo.

The man stopped for a moment and his smile broadened.

“What does it look like I'm doing?” he replied peacefully. “I'm building a cathedral to God.”

Here's what I learned:

How meaningful your life is has nothing to do with what you do, and everything to do with why and how you choose to do it. You can exercise to punish your body or to celebrate it. You can become a millionaire to keep yourself out of the poor house or as part of your contribution to the well-being of the planet. And in a way that I may never be able to explain fully, the joy I feel in my heart when I do silly voices in front of a microphone is the one of the most powerful prayers for peace that I know.

About Author
Michael  Neill
Michael Neill is an internationally renowned transformative coach and the best-selling author of five books including The Inside-Out Revolution and Continue reading