The Gift of 500 Years
It was Christmas Eve, 1513. In just two more years, 78 year-old architect Giovanni Giocondo would be dead, having filled Europe with magnificent buildings and bridges that continue to stand unweathered in the year 2005. During that night he wrote a note to his friend, Allagia Aldobrandeschi. The note, like his other work, remains:
I am your friend and my love for you goes deep. There is nothing I can give you which you have not got, but there is much, very much, that, while I cannot give it, you can take.
No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in today. Take heaven!
No peace lies in the future that is not hidden in this present little instant. Take peace!
The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach is joy. There is radiance and glory in the darkness could we but see – and to see we have only to look. I beseech you to look!
Life is so generous a giver, but we, judging its gifts by the covering, cast them away as ugly, or heavy or hard. Welcome it, grasp it, touch the angel's hand that brings it to you. Everything we call a trial, a sorrow, or a duty, believe me, that angel's hand is there, the gift is there, and the wonder of an overshadowing presence.
Life is so full of meaning and purpose, so full of beauty – beneath its covering – that you will find earth but cloaks your heaven.
Courage, then, to claim it, that is all. But courage you have, and the knowledge that we are all pilgrims together, wending through unknown country, home.
And so, at this time, I greet you. Not quite as the world sends greetings, but with profound esteem and with the prayer that for you now and forever, the day breaks, and the shadows flee away.
I send you these thoughts today because my own mind is cloudy and damp and I need to shout some sunshine in. I've been crowded upon by too many fast people in wraparound sunglasses and leather pants, each with a crocodile smile and a toothy proposal they assured me would be “mutually beneficial.” It took me long to make them go away.
Like Giocondo, I want to build things that will stand the test of time. Businesses for my clients and their families. An academy of higher learning for the world. A true and lasting friendship with you, even though we may never meet except through these brief notes on Monday mornings.
Thank you for spending these minutes. My greatest wish is for you to have the strength to lay your hand upon those things Giocondo urged Aldobrandeschi to take.
Roy H. Williams
PS – Special thanks to my consigliere Richard Grosbard, who somehow knows when to call and what to say. (If this name seems familiar to you, it may be because you remember Richard from the dedication page of the book, Accidental Magic.)