Asking for Forgiveness Rather than Permission

Arturo Di Modica was born in 1941 in Sicily, Italy.  He was inspired to be an artist against his father’s wishes.  He ran away from home.  He had his first show in 1968 of abstract castings made from bronze.  In 1970, Arturo immigrated to the United States.

In 1977, Arturo had enough sculptures to put on a show.  With little interest from art critics, Arturo decided to create his own interest.  He deposited eight huge marble sculptures in Rockefeller Center blocking traffic.  The Mayor of NYC visited Arturo’s sculptures and expressed an interest in them.  Arturo was given a $25 fine and generated untold value in his work.  He also learned to ask for forgiveness rather than permission.  From Arturo’s initial display of boldness, the popularity of his work continued.

Arturo wanted to give something to America for enabling his success.  He created a sculpture of a charging bull  The placement of the sculpture was critical to Arturo.  For several nights, he watched police patrols outside the New York Stock Exchange.  Once he discovered the window of opportunity, he and friends deposited the sculpture under a Christmas tree as a gift to America which was going through tough economic times.  Again, the placement of the sculpture was rejected.  Public outrage followed and the charging bull sculpture was permanently located in a park in the Wall Street district of NYC.  Arturo explained the sculpture as follows:  “My point was to show people that if you want to do something in a moment when things are very bad, you can do it  You can do it by yourself.  My point was that you must be strong.”

Asking for forgiveness rather than permission requires boldness and conviction that your actions will be appreciated after the initial rejection.  Often individuals will be so upset with the lack of responsiveness from others, that they feel they must act even if their actions are not approved.  Many of our most successful innovations have come from those who decided to act first rather than to wait for permission which may never come.

Of course, those who act without permission must have an understanding of legal, ethical, moral, financial, and other factors which may be a reason for not acting without permission.  For creative persons, acting without permission may be in their DNA.  The need to create may overwhelm everything else.  Many of our great innovations were discouraged by those who saw no need for change.

One of the challenges in our society today is how to manage the fine line between initiative taking and approval protocols.  Going to the extreme in either direction can result in a failure of society to move forward in a manner that is deemed acceptable.  It’s interesting that most of the world’s religious faiths tell of spiritual leaders acting on what they believed in without permission of what was considered acceptable at the time.  All of us will act at times on what we believe to be right even without permission.

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“I have a lot to create.  I have another 15, 20 years to do something beautiful.”  -Arturo Di Modica (age 63) (He passed away 17 years later)

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