Silence completes everything that is not round
After being picked up with a Jeep from a place that is, in itself, already located far away from the inhabited world, you drive along a dirt road for thirty minutes. Italian entrepreneur Marcello Murzilli built the road when he made a start with his dream project: a monastery in the mountains of Umbria, Italy, surrounded by a seemingly never-ending forest. It is the location of this September’s edition of the Your Lab Leadership.
Text: André Platteel. Photograhy: Annemiek van der Kuil at PhotoA.nl.
It took him four years to turn the ruins into a monastery. ‘This will never be a lucrative project,” Marcello explains with a voice bouncy from the unpaved road. “I can only host ten people. But the experience they will have here, that’s what I consider to be my profit.” No one was interested in buying the ruins and the accompanying piece of land for over thirty years. Marcello: ‘The former owner thought I was joking when I said I wanted to buy the place. We sealed the deal within half an hour.” The charismatic leader has made fame in Italy; he is now well known. After establishing the international fashion brand El Charro, he moved to Mexico to build and later sell one of the first autarkic eco lodges. “Next, I sailed across the world on a wooden ship. Never before, however, had I encountered a place as quiet and powerful as this one.”
“This place functions as a sieve. Only those who look for inner peace and power come here. My intention was not to build this place for monks, but for ‘normal’ people who want to return to their personal essence.”
When we arrive, Marcello shows me around, silently walking by my side. The monastery is designed with an eye for detail, yet simple. Stripped from all unnecessary ornaments, but designed with the eye of an Italian: stylish and of high quality. Marcello was afforded numerous prizes and his work is mentioned in the business’ leading magazines in the lists of best lodges in the world. All of it, however, is of no real interest to him: he has built Emerito to give something back. “Life has been good to me, and I want others to have a share in that good life. It’s not a matter of expensive goods or extreme experiences; the good is hidden in tranquility.” We make our way around the monastery. Around us, thousands of trees and their rustling leaves tremble in the warm wind. The sky turns pink; birds flying above us stand out in dark contrast. “This place functions as a sieve. Only those who are looking for inner peace and power come here. My intention was never to build this place for monks, but for ‘normal’ people, who want to return to their personal essence. To the essence of everything,” he adds. A bell sounds; his brother, who lives here too, is standing near the dining hall entrance; he has prepared dinner. The only light comes from candles. People eat in silence: a four-course meal: simple, yet refined.
After dinner, he explains how he had to finance the whole project himself. “Companies are interested in financial return. Those are instrumental, because in the core, it’s all about money. But if you cannot see that value primarily is created for and by people, money becomes worthless. With Emerito, I facilitate an unknown value: the desire of people to come into contact with their inner source, which is the source of all.”
It is as if every unfinished story is finalized at this place: healed.
I retire early, but am finding it hard to fall asleep: the sounds of animals I do not recognize keep me awake. Later, I dream hundreds of unfinished dreams, but only the ends, as if I am given time to finalize all unfinished stories. The smell of freshly baked bread wakes me early in the morning. Marcello is seated at the head of a long table in the garden. Now people are talking, sharing. The guests quickly develop a sense of familiarity. A few days later I take off, after a swim in an ice-cold lake with adjacent waterfall, and after horse riding in the forested mountains. “Don’t be sad,” Marcello says, when he sees that I am reluctant to go. ”You will be back in September bringing ten of your guests, and it will be fantastic. If afterwards you find it hard to leave again, you can build your own house and live with us.” He points at a farm belonging to the monastery, now in ruins. “You can have it,” he says. I can see he means it. And for a moment, I picture myself living here: the peace, the simplicity and the clarity. But I also feel the power rising within myself. I will be back here in September, with ten leaders who will join our YL retreat. Not to stay for good, but to be nourished and bring, from that lived-through essence, wonderful things into the world. I put my foot on the accelerator too boisterously, making the dirt road pebbles spray all around. In my rear view mirror I can see Marcello smile, gesture and shout something I cannot hear. “Tranquillamente, tranquillamente,” is, without a doubt, what he is saying.
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