Thought of the cathedral: what it is, features and examples

We do most of our actions with the short term in mind and with ourselves. For example, we may not want to recycle because we are too lazy to have to go to several different containers to dispose of waste, or we may be spending all of our wages on living well and taking care of ourselves.

Whether these are morally correct actions or not, it is clear that their consequences will not be only short-term. Not recycling means polluting the planet more, while not saving can be a big problem for us if in the future we have children and cannot support them.

Long term thinking is something we usually don’t do, and don’t even talk about thinking very long term, when we are no longer alive. Fortunately, there have been many who have thought so, being this type of psychological phenomenon called cathedral thinking. Let’s take a closer look below.

    What is cathedral thought?

    Before explaining the idea of ​​cathedral thought, let’s first see how cathedrals were built a few centuries ago, in the Middle Ages. At that time, cathedrals were projects that could take years. Cathedrals such as Notre-Dame, Burgos or Canterbury took several centuries to be completed, which was quite normal at the time and of which the architects were fully aware when laying the first stone.

    Architects knew they would never see their work finished, but that’s not why they stopped building them. Knowing that they would die long before their creations materialized in fully finished temples, the artists did not do so to have a beautiful building made themselves, but believed they would leave a cathedral for future generations. resilient, durable and beautiful that would leave a mark on anyone who saw it. They knew their work could be completed in hundreds of years, if not nearly a thousand, as is the case with Canterbury Cathedral “it took up to 900 years to complete!”

    The idea of ​​cathedral thought takes up this same idea. consists of the ability to design and plan projects with a broad time horizon, of several years, even decades or centuries. It’s about doing something with a very long-term view, thinking about a time when you might not be in the same place or even alive anymore, but where people at that time can benefit. or benefit from the actions that we have decided to make absorb the present. It is also a question of whether the actions we take today can harm future generations.

    Beyond the cathedrals

    Throughout history there have been a lot of people who have been thinking long term, being empathetic with future generations, Closely linked to the modern idea of ​​intergenerational justice. In addition to the construction of cathedrals and other buildings such as castles, walls and bastions of various cities, we have historical events which spanned several centuries and which had an impact on what the world is like today. ‘hui.

    An example of this is the time of the great explorations, period that considers from the end of century XV to the end of XIX. Centuries-old explorers from the Americas, Indonesia, Australia or Africa dug deep into unknown lands they knew full well they weren’t going to fully discover, for it was humanly impossible. What they were doing was being able to fill that great void that was still on the maps and that once one of those explorers could no longer go on, it was another who took his place and thus continued to complete the world map.

    Today the exploration took off and went into space. The first animals were sent to space, then humans, and later the Moon was trampled. These are not small steps for humanity, but they will come big steps. One day, we will be able to explore and colonize new worlds, events that would never have been possible if Yuri Gagarin had not dared to be up there or if the Apollo 11 team had not stepped on our satellite. .

    But you don’t have to explore new worlds to find people whose exploits serve us well to illustrate what cathedral thinking is all about. We think of families, of all of them. The simple fact that some parents avoid thinking about their children’s future when they are no longer around and that also serves their grandchildren is an example of this type of thinking.. It’s about empathizing with people who don’t yet exist, but at some point they will come and that, if they can be given the best in life, that’s an ethical imperative. to contribute as much as possible.

    Why should we start applying it

    We could give many more examples of cathedral thought cases, thinking both of our descendants 100 years from now and of people who shouldn’t be of our blood, but who, out of sheer empathy, would like us to be. they have the best possible life. There are many small things we can do today that, if consistent, can help people in the future.

    There are issues that are very current and since we don’t notice (or don’t want to see) their consequences, we don’t do much to change the situation.. While it is best to think long term, in a world where immediacy is rewarded and where you want to see results and returns quickly, you sometimes forget to think that things can take a long time to appear.

    climate change

    Climate change is a clear example of why we should start changing the way we manage and use resources today, applying cathedral thinking to give future generations a healthy planet to live on. Most adults today are unlikely to come to life when Earth encounters a sci-fi-sized climate catastrophe, but it’s no less likely than at some point, it can happen.

    Let’s think for a moment what will happen if we continue to consume and pollute the way we do.. It is true that overnight the temperature will not rise by 5 degrees and the polar caps will not melt what ice in summer, but what will be the situation in 100 years? Will there be ice in the Arctic? Will the air be breathable? If our answers to these questions are mostly negative, we need to do something to reverse the situation. In 100 years we will not be alive, but our grandchildren if we want them to suffer?

    Covid-19 pandemic

    But we can also see an example of where the future is now. The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the global situation upside down, causing an economic, health and humanitarian crisis that none of us who have lived through it will ever forget. What if someone 50 years ago had imagined this could happen? What do you think would be the most appropriate methods to prevent new infections? How would you avoid negative repercussions on the economy?

    If this cathedral thought exercise had been done, the situation would have been very different in countries like Italy or Spain. It would not be the panacea, but the mere fact of having raised the possibility that a viral disease transmitted by aerosols could cause a pandemic would have made them have warehouses with masks, envelopes methacrylate screens and also looked for means for all that everyone would have food without having to leave the house and risk getting sick.

      Future: better to do something today than to wait for tomorrow to come

      It is clear that the future is unpredictable, and the always possible unforeseen events that drive many of our efforts have not been of much use. Bad luck is part of our lives, but it’s not necessarily the end of them. Just as cathedral builders did not always have good materials at their disposal or their workers were not doing the structure properly, our attempts to support future generations may be thwarted by events beyond our control.

      However, better to do something today so that the future is better than to do nothing and may future generations remind us as selfish people who did not want to change their way of life for the sake of comfort. If we change the way we consume resources, a hundred years from now there will be a healthy planet to live on, and if anyone thought there might be a pandemic in the future today, we wouldn’t. would not have the economic and health crisis. meant COVID-19.

      The main idea of ​​cathedral thought is to ask the following question: How will the actions I take today influence people in the next few years? If the answer to this question is that what we do today will harm or not benefit future generations, then why do it? We need to be more empathetic with those who are not yet born, because there is nothing more cruel than to condemn them to live in a world in which it is impossible to live.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Cathedral Thought (sf) What is Cathedral Thought. In the thought of the cathedral. Retrieved from

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