In light of the recent terrorist attacks, and the surge in Neo-Nazism and white supremacy, I keep asking myself, how can I, a writer, lend a hand to my grieving, fearful, angry brothers and sisters?
In January I visited the amazing Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona, Spain, not too far from the Las Ramblas terrorist attack. The primary architect, Antoni Gaudí, worked on the cathedral for 43 years, before passing on. Still under construction today, it represents a century-long collaboration which is scheduled for completion in 2020.
What inspires me about Sagrada, beyond its awe-striking beauty and crafting, is that literally hundreds and hundreds of architects, artisans, masons, builders, and artists have formed links to its creation. “The creation continues incessantly through the media of man,” said Gaudí. In this sense, Sagrada Familia represents how inspired visions are erected first in our minds, and how we are all part of a magnificent collaboration that began before time. Our individual dreams for a better world are links in the chain of eternity, live manifestations streaming through the appearance of time, accompanied by masters and prophets and saints and angels.
Sometimes weeks, months, years pass when our efforts to provide inspiration or comfort seem futile. Sometimes violent events kick against our visions, they howl and snarl and dig in. When this happens, it’s tempting to give into negative, condemning thoughts. Giving in can feel like the great monument of faith we have worked so long and so hard to realize has crumbled and taken heaven with it. But we gather ourselves up again, aligning with universal Grace and Love, magnifying higher aspirations as we know them, glorifying what is transcendent—what lies beyond the reach of temporal power—and by Grace the “cathedral” reappears. In fact, it never went anywhere.
Gaudí didn’t live long enough to see the finished Sagrada. But I imagine it was complete in his mind, a vision attesting to heaven on earth, a living thing. In the same way, we writers who are giving voices to the marginalized, oppressed, and forsaken populations might not see the completed version of our world vision. However, as links in the Grand Collaboration, our efforts will uphold and bear forth as universal monuments to unity. In our persistence, like the masters before us—many named and unnamed—our “cathedrals” shield us and others from the backwash of superstition and ignorance, as surely as they will provide solace and shelter and inspiration to the disenfranchised.