Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Building a cathedral

A traveler came upon a group of three hard-at-work stonemasons, and asked each in turn what he was doing.
The first said, “I am sanding down this block of marble.”
The second said, “I am preparing a foundation.”
The third said, “I am building a cathedral.”

Okay, that little parable is slightly cliche and it has been used by inspirational speakers for years. But I've always kind of liked it. It illustrates how your perspective on things goes a long ways towards how you approach anything you do.

I like building cathedrals. I like believing that what I do matters. But damn, sometimes it just feels like I'm just moving rocks from one pile to another.

I work in a renovated turn-of-the-century train station. Each morning I walk through the Great Hall. It used to be the main train depot. It looks like a cathedral and early in the morning, when there is no one else around, it is quite peaceful and uplifting.

But then I take the elevator up to my office. As the elevator door closed this morning I realized that, at the very minimum, I had another 16 years of punching that elevator button to carry me up to my office. That's about 4160 elevator trips. And at the end of those 4160 trips up the elevator what will I have to show for it and who will care?

But you really can't look at things that way. Then you are just carrying rocks from one place to another and after another 16 years all you'd have is a big pile of rocks.

So as the elevator doors opened and I walked to my office, I said to myself "I'm building a cathedral."

But when I'm finished with the damned thing, I'm going to Disneyland.


JP (mom) said...

It's all in the way we perceive things ... here's to a big, damn, beautiful cathedral! JP

Steve said...

I believe very much in the power of positive thinking........

There is so much damn negative stuff around it burys you some times..........

Hey ya need a hand to build that cathedral?
You know where I am........!

Will it have a bar?

Harmony said...

Well I'm building a Football Stadium and I will fill it with gorgeous football players and I will certainly live happily ever after.....Amen

Disneyland??? What happened to Wonderland??? It will be a lot less crowded and probably cheaper.

Time said...

I do believe that greatness is achieved by believing you are doing great things.

Yes, positive thinking and doing.

Wonderland is where I go in my spare time. Disneyland is where I'll go after I retire...but only figuratively.

BlazngScarlet said...

I've tried the positive thinking route, and it just doesn't quite work for me.
Too much a realist.

Your office building sounds amazing though .... I love old buildings!

Time said...


Yeah, I'm not so much into positive thinking as much as trying to look for purpose in what I am doing...even if it is just providing a home for my family.

The building is pretty cool (and some say haunted as well).

Lights in the wake said...

Come on now Tim, it's not guaranteed you'll be going up that elevator for 16 more years. Maybe you'll move to a new building or get fired for blogging on company time. Always look on the bright side, that's what I say.

Hayden said...

More power to you.

Lately I've been choking on the koolaid though.

Time said...

You work in a social services agency right? This is just a guess, but do you get a large number of complaints from clients that they feel strangely depressed after receiving counseling from you.

Hayden, Have you been wearing your Nike running shoes while you are drinking the Koolaid?

Anonymous said...

I have a boss who loves to walk in, look over my shoulder at my computer screen, and ask, "So, what are you doing?" I usually tell him the mundane truth about whatever mindless chore I'm wasting my life on and then I ask him, "So, what are you doing."

And he usually says, "Nuthin," which is, at least, refreshingly honest.

Next time he asks, I'm going to say, "I'm changing the world. Of course." I'm inspired!

(But he'll still be doing nuthin.)

Hayden said...

OF COURSE I'm wearing my Nike running shoes. What, you got spies now?

Lights in the wake said...

Naw, mostly they can barely muster the will to make it to their cars much less file a complaint.

Time said...

Kristy, As a manager myself, I must say that doing nuthin takes years of training.

Hayden, the mother ships are coming.

Lights, You are an artist.

Anonymous said...

I love this post.

I also love that you have given me an infinite number of possibilities to build my own cathedral; some days on a smaller scale. I would say that some simple days I am making cathedral cookies and on maddening days I am building a cathedral outhouse. Nevertheless, you have made me feel that life is full of endless architectural opportunities....