Earth but cloaks our heaven, Giovanni Giocondo wrote on a Christmas Eve almost 500 years ago. By which I understand him to be saying that the holy glimmers everywhere around us and within us, if we would but look beneath the coverings that conceal it. I beseech you to look, he says and continues: We, judging (life’s) gifts by their covering, cast them away as ugly or heavy or hard. Remove the covering, he advises, and you will find beneath it a living splendor, woven of love by wisdom, with power. . . . Life is so generous a giver.
Can I believe it? So much of the world right now strikes me as “ugly and heavy and hard.” Do I really believe it is “woven of love by wisdom, with power”? I was turning this question over while driving across town recently, sinking into December despair. The trees were bare of leaves, the grass brittle and dormant. Everything seemed stripped of color and life, and winter hadn’t even officially started. Given the barren season and the often deadening events of the past 12 months, I had to ask myself, where’s the evidence of this “living splendor”? How do I remove the hardened covering I see everywhere I look to find the sacred shimmering Giovanni promises is beneath?
Then I turned the corner and spotted a simple chalk sign in someone’s front yard. It offered just six words: Dream big. Start small. Begin now.
I stopped the car and smiled. Maybe it was the simple optimism of the message. Maybe it was the elementary instructions that seemed so very doable they erased my doubts. Maybe it was the chalky letters that transported me to childhood’s willing wonder.
What if, I asked myself, I followed these instructions as I greet the new year? What old thinking might I leave behind? What new thinking might I explore, first with big dreams, and then with small steps? What new ways of thinking, of being, of living might begin now?
And why would I want to do anything else?