“I will always remember this day forever. It was when my past crashed into the future, to create the purpose for my present.” Tomaso, “Masso”, De la- Rosa, 1855.
A baby boy was found in the early morning hours of August 18, 1843, at the front gates of the Villa De la Rose in the Enna province of Sicily. His dark green eyes looking out inquisitively from the interior of the picker‘s basket. The child, a month or so old, was bare to the world except for a small metal of Saint Tomas of Arimathea, around his thin neck. The boy’s carpet of dark red hairs was just starting to cover his large head. The mysterious baby was immediately adopted by the estate and given the name Tomaso for his Saint. Though, he was forever to be known as, Masso.
Early morning hours in the stables of the la Barbra’s estate before Masso finds his destiny.
“Masso, where have you been? The Don is leaving and requested to see you before he goes and you have already kept him waiting too long. Hurry up now,” said Father Stefano stressfully.
“What does the Patron want with me, Father?” The boy asked eagerly.
“You ask me like I know what Don Leonardo thinks, just get moving and don’t ask questions that will be answered soon enough,” replied the village’s old priest , Father Stephano.
The fact was, until four years earlier the Don had spoken fewer than twelve words total to the boy, but then so much had happened in these last forty- eight months.
The change came by accident, during one of Masso’s explorations in the gardens. He found the hidden door in the wall, behind an old cypress tree. There, Masso found an iron decorative piece in front of the old wood panel. Only upon closer inspection would anyone ever notice the wood pieces were, in fact, a door. Hidden to the side, Masso found a simple wood peg lever which when pulled opened. It freed the weathered wood door on its old iron hinges, squeaking as they cracked, opening inward. What he found was an unknown passage way between the walls that surrounded the house. Dank and musty odor filled Masso’s nose. Curiosity the boys felt, was a bigger motivator to his burning urges than fear of an unknown. As he walked into the empty space Masso noticed the way was lit by sunlight streaming though gaps in the rock walls. It was as if the mortar had been deliberately missed in certain areas, to allow for this illumination. Masso followed the passage which led back to the villa and to a small set of step, to another large wood panel with a similar wood lever as the hidden gate door.
When Masso pulled the handle down that day he had no idea where it would lead or how it was going to change his life, forever. The whole panel swung in, and as he stuck his red wooly head into the newly reveled space. What he was looked into was a room full of books. There were shelves and shelves of them along two of the walls floor to ceiling, more books than he had ever though existed in the whole world. An as the young curious boy stepped deeper into the room, what he was able to see there, were maps and paintings covering the other wall spaces. Old iron weapons were lying around in piles here and there and even two strange covering suits of armor were in a corner. One made of iron the other looked to be made of some kind of round wood pieces.
A heavily ornately carved wooden desk sat in the middle of the large window which looked out on to the gardens. Flowers on the left side, vegetables on the right, and beyond them began the forest of lemon trees, all the way down to the road, like a village of wooden men, with yellow and green hair.
“This must the Don’s special place.” Masso thought to himself as he walked around the large room, he was trying to take in as much as he could.
From the beginning the Don had appointed Masso’s care to Augusto, the estate manager along with his wife Mella, the mid-wife and herbalist for the area.
Masso had never been further inside of the villa than the kitchen. His closest interior views had been while he looked through the windows as he cleaned them from the outside. He made it regularly into the kitchen only because one of his jobs was to supply meat and fowl to the estates kitchen when the Don was in residence.
Masso had been going into the woods and hills to hunt for roots or flowers with Mella since as far back as he could remember. She would bring him to help dig up plants, giving him her knowledge of their benefits and dangers of each of the plants parts. It was from these early days that Masso learned to observe the wild life that was around them and where his skills with his sling shot were honed. Soon enough anything walking, crawling, or even flying was not safe from his leather and stone. He would bring fresh killed meat or fowl from the previous night’s hunt, to the manors back door.
Don Leonardo had always been a generous Patron. He provided for the entire village a tutor, at least for a few months every year, during the off season. Anyone who wished to learn to read, write, and to gain basic math skills was encouraged to attend.
Masso started attending classes at age four where the tutor opened his mind to the world outside the orchards and area farms. Then Padre Stefano was the teacher of God and his Son’s words on Sundays. His teachings also included some Latin.
Masso’s first visit to the library was just a short look around, a scouting adventure. The boy’s natural curiosity was too great though. So from that day on Masso kept finding himself being drawn back. Inside were books with stories and ideas and knowledge Masso had never dreamed or considered. The Don must be the smartest and luckiest man to have ever lived, Masso thought. The Don has gotten to read all these many books and now has all their knowledge in his head. So too the young boy began reading. Each new book opened another world and his fertile mind. Masso consumed them as a thirsty man who finds water well in the desert. With his eyes now beginning to open, Masso could he see how many smart men are actually were out in the world and each has a different way of seeing things.
Late one night when the eight year old thought everyone had gone to bed he slipped though the swing door, as he done many times before. This time though Masso found the Don sitting at his desk, busy in thought. Don Leonardo too was quite startled by the boy and by the unexpected intrusion of his space.
Masso quickly turned and tried to leave, but.
“Come back here boy, what are you doing here, how did you find the passage?” His gruff voice did shake the boy’s confidence a little.
Though Masso was afraid, the thought he could be prohibited from coming back or worse, sent away, was greater. So Masso slowly turned back to face this looming figure at the desk.
“I found the way from the garden many months ago and I come here to learn. I promise I have taken nothing but words and thoughts Sire. I will leave you to your business as you wish Sir.” Masso wanted to run as fast as he could but took a few breaths then began to turn, when he heard the old man’s voice. Now with a little softer tone.
“No come in, sit down there Masso,” the Don pointed to old leather chair next to his desk. “And what are you reading if I may ask? What catches your interest?” The old man asked sincerely.
“Well sire there is so much to learn at first I would try to read several books at once. Now I try to just read one at a time and concentrate on what its saying. Lately it has been Niccol Machiavelli’s book, The Prince, do you know it?”
“His ideas are pretty strong, forceful. Do you understand what he is trying to say, Masso?”
“He is just repeating what goes on in the real world, of nature. A rabbit has speed, flexibility and in his brambles he is safe. He has all the food he needs just a jump or two away, but if he comes out, the hawk that has stealth and patients, can produce fatal force. And when he catches his prey in the open the hawk now has the advantage over the rabbit. Might equal’s right in the end one is the winner the other the dinner.”
“Yes, that is the blood and meat of it,” he said chuckling. “And what will you do with all this knowledge Masso?”
“Knowledge, I read somewhere, is power itself something you can never have too much of, something you can’t lose and you can take it with you no matter where you go.”
“Yes knowledge can bring great power and wealth if used correctly but it also brings great burdens and responsibilities. Choices, hard choices like would you rather be loved or feared?” The old Don was testing him out.
“What’s love? I know that if you give to the land your time and energy. That land will give back to you all you need. I do have control of who I am, what I do. I like me and that’s enough for now. I never really considered any one fearing me, but I do like the idea; FEAR, the concept certainly has power.”
“Yes it does, and you I believe, in time will find how to best use it to your advantage. Don’t ever be weak boy and, do it quickly, forcefully, and never regret your decisions. For you will know when it will be right for the time.” A moment of silence was shared between them before the Don spoke again. “If you wish I will recommend a few books to expand your course of study. From there we will see.”
“Thank you Patron, I value your opinion as well the concerns and interest in this poor son of Del la Rosa.”
The next forty eight or so months found the boy busy 18 hours a day. Masso was working his normal duties during the days. Then at night with or without the Don, Masso was studying works of Aristotle, Plato, and Leonardo De Vinci. It was an ancient warrior teacher from the other side of the world which would have the most profound way of viewing life that he found most compelling. The authors name was Sun Tzu a Chinese General who wrote the book, Art of War, almost 2400 years earlier. Each one of the thirteen chapters was devoted to different aspect of war fare and how it applies to strategy and tactics. Masso saw it as a way to deal with everyday life as well.