Once upon a time, in the mythical land of ancient Greece, there lived two sculptor brothers, Alexandros and Leonidas. They were men with good hearts, always there to give a helping hand to those in need. From the little they had they would still find ways to share with those in their small, mountain village.
Life was not easy on them. Their days were spent in the scrappy shop inherited from their father, working diligently on the various pieces he’d taught them how to sculpt, struggling with not so great tools and not so great materials, but they’d learnt to make by.
Every week they would travel down the mountain paths, to the prosperous city of Delphi, carrying with them their precious works and hopes. Down to the city’s famed agora, to try and entice the well offs to part away with some of their coins, to earn their ends meet for a couple more days. Not always would they return happy.
One evening, walking back home on the winded mountain road, with their heads down, deep in thought, they hear someone’s cries for help. They run guided by the sounds to find a young man surrounded by a pack of wolves. Their sudden appearance frightens the beasts and scares them away.
“Oh, thank you so much! I am forever in your debt!” said the young man, a little scratched but otherwise ok “I thought this was it. I’m still shaking a little. Oh please, would you care accompanying me back to the city gates? I will repay you for this kindness.”
“We’ll gladly help you,” Leonidas offered, “These are risky roads one should not travel alone, nor stray too far in the wilderness.”
“Indeed, I got distracted. My curiosity got the best of me and I lost track of time and how far I ventured. Lesson well learnt. My name is Iasonas, I’m a merchant by trade and I wanted to take a feel of the city’s surrounding and of the fabled marble queries, here in the mountains. Usually I don’t find myself in such troubles. What about you good men? How come you are braving these roads so late in the evening?”
And so the brothers tell little by little about their work, and struggles, about their life, their hopes and their worries. The young merchant had a knack for opening them up, and by the time they reached the city gates they felt like old friends.
“Come, you will be my honored guests tonight. Tomorrow I must leave for Athens, but I have good contacts here and I will make sure you will receive the best tools, materials and a proper place in the agora to display your works. I have seen your hearts and you will, one day, become renowned citizens, no doubt.”
“How does one find wealth and riches so young, starting from a simple family like you did?” Alexandros suddenly asked.
“Ha! You have that sparkle in your eyes, you know? Don’t you lose it! Such a great gift, and only a few get to keep it!
Now… It’s not knowing the path to riches that is hard, Alexandros. Anyone can see a path towards the top of the tallest mountain, but only a few succeed in following one long enough to reach there.
It’s not in your strength of knowing, but in your strength of doing that this matter rests! But here, I’ll give you the advice I wish I had when I was as young as you…
First you should find your heart! Find what works bring you joy and purpose.
And then you must strive to use those to serve as many others as you can. The more lives you touch, and the deeper you do so, the more you can be repaid.
Make sure to never sell yourself, only let your works do the earning.
This is how I guided myself, from the heart and for the many. Again and again, through easier roads and through harder roads, I’ve put one step in front of the other. And now I have reached my summit. I have a full life and freedom to do as I please, I hope it will guide you as well, too.”
“Find passion, serve many, not sell myself. Got it!” Alexandros beamed.
“Easier said than done my young friend! But if you keep at it long enough, you will find your riches. Life allowed more unexpected things than that to happen.”
They continued talking, laughing and swapping stories late into the night and then parted like good friends the next morning. During the following days, the brothers received as promised new tools, beautiful and rare materials and a prime place in the agora.
Leonidas went deep into his work. By the end of next week he had a beautiful piece that he hoped would catch the eye of some lord. He looked for Alexandros, but he was nowhere to be found, his tools even didn’t seem to be touched.
Leonidas felt a bit of anger with his younger brother, wasting his time like this. The tools and materials would not last forever, they needed to make the most of them as soon as they could. They should not waste their chance.
He went to the Agora and showcased his piece. To his luck, it caught the eye of an old lord. He haggled a little on the price and seemed ready to part with 150 coins. Never had Leonidas sold for such a high sum. He felt his heart beating faster.
“You seem a trustworthy man,” the lord said, hand stilled on his purse, “I will make you a better offer. If you make me 5 of these by the end of the month I’ll pay 500 coins and if you are hardworking as you seem I will employ you for the rest of the year for 1000 coins each month.”
Leonidas was stunned. This was more than he dared hope. Stumbling on such an offer… He gladly accepted and promised he would be back at the end of the month to present the lord with his best work.
A thousand coins each month, his life would turn around so fast. He could do so much, no more hungry nights for once, and dared he dream… a place in the city, away from this forsaken, poor village. Maybe in the future his patron could see his good works and pay him even more. He had already heard about other craftsmen in Athens making 2–3 times this rate. Excitement coursed through his body. He went straight to his little shop and started working. It was his one opportunity, he could not miss.
By the end of the month he had the promised pieces. It had been a tiring and even painful process, as he did restart a few times because he didn’t think some of those creations reflected his best work.
Alexandros, like a naïve youngster, would waste his time chasing philosophers and other villagers around… No philosophy teaches you more of life than the empty belly. Leonidas felt a pang of disappointment. Only the other day he’d seen him building a bench. Serving the many, he’d said. The young fool, wasting his good days, will surely regret not finding a patron as soon as he could.
After one year, Leonidas was finally ready. He would leave for Athens as soon as he could find a merchant’s caravan. He had worked hard and saved enough money so he could pay for the trip and for a few months in the big city. There were world renowned shops and if he would find work in one of them he would be set for life. With the money he would save he could buy the Athenian citizenship in less than 10 years, and maybe in time open a shop of his own. It was a good plan and he knew it was something he could reach. So his heart was set.
Alexandros was still acting like a stubborn fool. He’d started working on a garden. Here, in the middle of nowhere. Him, a sculptor, spending his time planting trees and flowers. Apparently he had convinced a few of those goofball philosophers to do their teachings there. Something with the long road from the city clearing their minds and then the garden itself offering a good place for meditation and quiet. Not two days ago he’d ran into him all happy and gleeful that he’d found a new idea. A “Garden of Knowledge” he’d called it. Such a waste of time… But Leonidas loved his brother nevertheless and decided he would find a way to help him as soon as he was settled.
And so he said his goodbyes and went for Athens to follow his dream and set an example. He would work hard, but he would make it. A soon to be Athenian. Or so he hoped. It was not as easy but it was expected. He struggled at first and had to take cheaper jobs, but worked diligently and jumped from one shop to another, until he settled in one where the boss was not that bad and the salary was good enough.
Four years later Leonidas had a place in the city. His Athenian citizenship was still aways in the future but he knew he was on the right path. He had just received a letter from Alexandros. His brother was travelling to Athens. Finally, he must have come to his senses. Leonidas would find him a nice position, show him the ropes. Hard work always pays.
Leaving the shop, he joined a group of friends to some opening party. Such was the life of a well respected Athenian sculptor, one could afford good friends and good wine. What could be better?
A few things came to mind, for no man can sit entirely content. A bigger place couldn’t hurt, his soon to be wife always dreamed of spacious gardens, and a happy wife… happy life. Not a fool, the one who said that. A bit more spare time would have worked too, there was a bit of a drag in the shop, feeling a bit tired, maybe he was getting old, didn’t feel much excitement about this party either. Where were they going anyway?
And there it was. A “Garden of Knowledge” right there in Athens. A big beautiful garden, humming with people. And inside, who else, but his own little brother, dressed like a lord and all smiling.
“Alexandros?! Here? What is this? I thought you’d arrive later this week.. A Garden of Knowledge … in Athens? How ever did you manage?”
“Leonidas! Come, let me hug you, brother! I’ve missed you so… There is a lot we have to speak of.
This? Remember, when you left, I had my idea of building a garden for knowledge? Well, it worked brother! Can’t really believe it myself.
And you thought I was all crazy with my serve the many. Everything I did, brother, I tried to see how my work could serve more, and here I am.
It started with a simple bench. I just wanted to sculpt something that was useful itself. Then a philosopher stopped by and said he loved the view and he wished there was a place like that for him and his disciples.
And I thought maybe I could make something of it, like the gardens in the city. I loved those and I thought the villagers would like it, the philosophers for sure, and maybe the caravans might stop by, before entering the city. The garden could serve many.
And then, right before you left, I’ve stumbled unto this other idea. You see, a lot of people started coming to hear the philosopher, but he only came a few days a week, sometimes less.
So, I thought, how could I help? And I asked him if I could build a little library with special shelfs where his disciples could leave copied notes of his speeches, so they could be read to others, even if he wasn’t there.
That’s how the whole idea began. And people would come and would pay a toll each month and could visit the garden any time and as many times they wanted.
The first two years where hard, there was a lot of work and little pay until more and more people started coming, and then the caravans noticed and one of the merchants suggested, why not expand this garden into other cities as well.. he would have loved to have a place of peace and knowledge just like this in his hometown. Even those in Delphi were asking for something like this.
Again, I thought, how could my work serve more? And I’ve devised guidance and tools and helped merchants bring Knowledge Gardens in their own towns. And then we’d use the caravans to copy and send the most appreciated philosophy cards between each other.
Every time a new garden is created it benefits all the other gardens with their new knowledge.. and the villagers and philosophers of that city can learn lessons from all the corners of Greece.
And yes, I get a small part of the profits at the end of each month. But as there are more and more gardens springing out there, and as people from everywhere are bulging to see. I don’t need to work another day in my life anymore. It’s not a bad feeling at all, brother!
And here we are, finally at the core of it, in Athens. They were so happy to have one here, they even offered to make me an esteemed citizen. Can you believe that, Leonidas? Me, an Athenian Citizen! Life truly allows for unexpected things…”
Leonidas shook his head, “All these years, I thought you the fool, but there you are, top of the mountain, smiling down on me. It seems you’ve chosen the better path, my brother.”
“Nonsense, the path always shifts in front of us, I just had the good fortune of a wise advice to guide myself on and the stubbornness we both share. Now that we are together again, we have more plans to think of.”
His eyes were still glittering.
“We just need to figure how our work could serve the many…”
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