According to Roberto Assagiolo, M.D., “[a] man of strong and able will … whose actions are not restrained by any moral law, by any sense of love and compassion can have a disastrous influence on a community or on an entire nation.”1
We are able to see disturbing evidence of this reality through a great many atrocities of the past and sadly through very recent recurrences of terrorism, tyranny, genocide and other instances of man’s grave cruelty towards his fellow-man taking place on today’s world stage.
Therefore, it is necessary both for the general welfare [of others], and our own, that our will should be ‘good’, as well as strong and skillful. Only this is the true, the whole will; a will that can give us both practical success and the highest inner satisfaction. In it lies one of the secrets of the great men and women whom we most admire and revere.
The question that now arises: Is it possible to form and develop a will of this kind? How should one set about embracing such a task? It is possible to develop such a will; the past and the present give us many examples of men and women who have achieved it. The means to this end do exist and have always been more or less known and used.
In order to know what will really is we must first discover it in ourselves. It is [however] an inner condition difficult to describe or define. It is one of those fundamental experiences which cannot in actuality be communicated by means of words, but which must be lived individually.2
Though I admit that I do not know with any certainty, I am much inclined to believe that ‘will’ is at times aligned with serendipitous actions, events, and the mystical. For example, it has often been my experience when facing a difficult challenge, coming up against a roadblock or while bending over ever so painfully towards a negative posture, to suddenly, and then with surprise, vigorously regain the most upright positioning. On other occasions, delivered as if by a divine messenger, there comes a long-awaited answer or solution to a problem. I am able to recall times when a door that long remained locked miraculously opened–or a new friend, helper or mentor arrived just in the nick-of-time to restore lost hope, love, and joy. Let me not forget to mention how after aimlessly browsing in many a bookstore, more often than not, that before leaving I came across a book, to which I opened its pages only to find there within, a place that included the precise answer to a pressing question or a visible mapping that I sorely needed to take an important next step that would move me further along in the right direction.
The first time that I became aware of this unfathomable cause and effect relationship between the reordering of my life habits and the seemingly associated favorable outcomes, I was still a junior in college. As I began looking beyond the horizon in search of my place in the world after graduation, it occurred to me that it might be a good idea for me to consider the best possible use of my time in the summer before my senior year by exploring a unique and memorable opportunity.
Among the choices that became available to me were an opportunity to attend a six-week summer Career Discovery program at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) in Cambridge, MA. This program welcomes people—from recent high school and college graduates to seasoned professionals who want to find out more about architecture, landscape architecture and urban planning and design. I had taken a course earlier that year in City Planning through the Department of Civil Engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) and considered the Career Discovery program to be a good possible next course. Another educational alternative entailed traveling abroad through the Pietrasantra (Italy) Summer Study Program sponsored by the Providence College Department of Studio Art and History. Having the chance to travel abroad proved the more exciting of the two possibilities. This program would run for twenty years under the direction of Fr. Richard Mcalister, based at the studio of Dominician sculpter, Thomas McGlynn, O.P.
In early spring, I set about trying to get the financial resources necessary to make the trip. Previously a ward of the State of New Jersey and then a college financial aid recipient, I had no idea how I would possibly make this dream a reality. It occurred to me that the college’s financial aid officer might be able to help me in finding grant money so I made an appointment to speak with him. He asked me to give him a little time to do some investigating and told me that he would get back in contact with me in one week letting me know then what he was able to find. Because I had to attend a meeting at Providence College in Rhode Island to learn more about the trip and meet the other students that would be going to Europe, I thought that it might also be a good idea to find out if Providence College might be offering any scholarship money to its program participants.
Upon listening to the details on the previous summer trip and seeing the colorful photographs I became convinced that this would truly be a once in a lifetime opportunity. During that visit, I also learned that full payment for the trip was due in advance to make sure that all flights were booked on time, and hotel and other important arrangements made without any problems or delays.
On the train ride back from Providence, Rhode Island to Boston, MA and then on to Worcester by bus, I began to worry over whether I was making the right decision considering my very meager financial circumstances. That night, I began telling myself, “where there is the will there is a way”. In the end, everything worked out quite miraculously.
- Assagiolo, M.D., R. (N/A). The Training of the Will (http://www.synthesiscenter.org/articles/0117.pdf).