Yes. Christmas is over and the wrapping paper is clogging the recycling bin. Just as I was looking for a leftover ham recipe that tastes just like lobster (I didn’t find it,) some thoughtless person asked me about my New Year’s resolutions.
Seriously? I haven’t done my returns because too many cars on the highway scare me back into my pajamas and force me to watch more Christmas movies. I know I’ve seen every one, but I still get some peace from the plot repetition and the pretty people and the prettier houses.
This holiday season has delivered uncertainty, anxiety and dread as many people see a world that is slipping from its moorings. How do we find the balance to counter the neglect and disinterest that has brought us to this global craziness? My simplistic advice of, “work like hell for the ones who matter” seems short on wisdom. Then I came across Fra Giovanni’s letter, once an important part of my Christmas tradition. Fra Giovanni lived with intolerance, war, ignorance, and longing. It was the early the 16th century, so there you have it. Life goes on. This was his gift of comfort to an unstable, difficult world. Since I am unable to summon genius from my own store, I’m passing on some of his.
I hope that whatever you resolve for the New Year is within your reach. Remember joy, love your family without expectation, and embrace the chaos in the mad random world.
Within Our Reach: Joy (edited version)
By Fra Giovanni Giocondo
I salute you. I am your friend, and my love for you goes deep. There is nothing I can give you that you don’t have. But there is much, very much, that, while I cannot give it, you can take.
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 darkness, could we but see. And to see, we have only to look. Take joy!
Life is so generous a giver. But we, judging its gifts by their covering, cast them away. Remove the covering, and you will find beneath it a living splendor, woven of love by wisdom, with power.
Life is so full of meaning and purpose, so full of beauty beneath its covering. Courage then to claim it; that is all! But courage you have, and the knowledge that we are pilgrims together, walking home through unknown country.
Fra Giovanni Giocondo (c.1435–1515) was a Renaissance pioneer, accomplished as an architect, engineer, antiquary, archaeologist, classical scholar, and Franciscan friar. Today we remember him most for his reassuring letter to Countess Allagia Aldobrandeschi on Christmas Eve, 1513.