Scott’s Thoughts: Your Cathedral

“A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral. ”

-Antoine de Saint-Exupery (1900 − 1944); French author

Image of cathedral

Cathedral building was a monstrous undertaking. It was not uncommon for the construction of a cathedral to take over 100 years and involve everyone in a given town. It was beset with intellectual, physical, and practical challenges. With rudimentary tools, stone, and ambition for grandeur, some of the most breathtaking buildings in history were created.

Many people who participated in the construction of a cathedral knew for a fact they would never see it completed in their lifetime. Some even saw their hard work dashed to a pile of rubble in engineering disasters, while others died in the pursuit. Still, there was an intense drive to create ever larger, ever higher cathedrals.

A cathedral is a good metaphor for our most ambitious goals. Plenty excites us, and a great deal can catch our imagination in passing, but what is so grand and so ambitious that it sustains us for our lives? What excites an entire team of people to join us? What is so worth the struggle that we would give ourselves to the pursuit knowing there may be a chance we never see the result in our lifetime?

I do not think it is necessary for everyone to live their life in pursuit of their own cathedral. Many people can and will live a satisfying life in a much quieter fashion. Still, I would urge each of us to never stop looking at the “rock piles” around us for that idea which towers in the mind like a cathedral. What a thing, to be dedicated to such a magnificent purpose.

(If you’re curious to learn more about cathedral building, check out this excellent program from PBS on the construction of Gothic cathedrals.)

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