It would certainly be hard to find a city built under more challenging circumstances. The original occupants were refugees from Roman cities who were fleeing invaders.
The attackers were formidable on land, on horseback, so the refugees settled along these marshy lagoons. The selection of the site was a matter of self-protection.
Eventually, some of the most breathtaking architecture would arise in Venice. There are buildings that would be considered magnificent by any standard, anywhere, but are even more incredible when you realize what it took to build them here.
One church alone rests on a foundation of more than one million wooden piles—and remember those piles were all cut, transported and put in place by hand.
The whole city is really a monument to human ingenuity, determination, resourcefulness, and artistic passion. It was founded out of urgent necessity and evolved to become a home to some of the greatest art and architecture mankind has ever created.
Human beings are like that; we have the ability to invent ourselves out of a crisis, to make the most of what we have and achieve incredible things for the simple reason that we are forced to.
Capacity for greatness
And then we emerge from the crisis stronger than ever, and able to apply that newly discovered capacity for greatness to work in new and exciting ways. For the people of Venice, their capacity for survival in the early years is surpassed only by the greatness of their passion for the arts as they flourished.
The point is, that capacity for greatness was there all along—it is there in just about every one of us right now. We just need to stop seeing barriers as being impassable and recognize what we can do with the resources we have at this moment. It’s a question we should all ask ourselves: What would I be capable of achieving with what I have today if I really had to? Then comes the inevitable follow-up question: So why aren’t I doing it right now?