The Cathedral and the Artist

A statement I often hear when people learn I’ve written a novel (more to come next year 🙂 is, “I could never do anything like that.  It would be too overwhelming to keep track of something that complex.” Another common statement is, “I’d never have the patience or dedication for that type of thing.”

Writers (among many other professions) can dedicate years to their projects and, yes, before you’ve actually finished something you’ve never attempted before the process can be overwhelming.  So where is a struggling artist to draw inspiration from? Personally, I often find it in stories about other artists.

Back in March of this year, 60 Minutes aired the following piece that examined the unique story of  Antoni Gaudi and his vision for a cathedral in Barcelona, Spain, that is still being built well over 100 years after construction first began.  You can view the episode here.

Why do I find this inspirational?

Looking beyond the religious aspects of the structure, I see the story of an artist with a vision; one which in this case, has inspired and spanned generations of artists and workers in pursuit of a shared, grand vision.  The building is awash in symbolism and nuance and the structure itself is an exploration and expression of the relationship between humans, nature, and spirituality in the cultures we create.  I am drawn to the idea that an artist can have an artistic vision that touches so many and summons the creative efforts of succeeding generations to contribute to and give meaning to a work of art.

I feel that far too often it is easy for societies to forget or bury the past rather than to question, embrace, learn from, or celebrate it. A work that takes so long to complete gives the world a unique opportunity to slow down and appreciate the efforts and struggles of others who have preceded us.  It makes my own meager artistic efforts feel like they are indeed part of a larger, eternal need we feel to contribute something unique to humanity.  I find that reassuring.