On my trip to France with my daughter recently, I began Dan Brown’s “Inferno”. Amazing storyteller he is. My favorite stories are those with twist endings and this is Brown’s signature. I finally finished it while in bed ill last week and I fell upon a quote I absolutely must share. Actually, there’s two quotes but I’d like to post on the second separately in the future as it demands its own spotlight.
Now, Inferno is about Professor Robert Langdon (main character) who is an expert in symbology and he’s involved in a top-secret operation of trying to save the world – of course – while seeking a “terrifying new scientific paradigm that will be used either to vastly improve the quality of life on earth…or to devastate it” (back cover). The entire story is based upon over population in the world today and how mathematically it’s inevitable that we will eventually destroy ourselves. Though, If women were in charge, I declare the results would be different: civilization would have less wars and make more love and quite probably, ensure every woman had access to contraception. Birth control is more than about not having children or controlling women. It’s about population regulation for the ultimate benefit of the species from a logical standpoint which Brown describes well in his book. I wont let out the spoiler. It’s a must read book because it looks seriously at the real problem of over population and in my mind, why the spread of contraception education is dire.
Once in France with my daughter, we visited the Metz Cathedral.
It’s beautiful and just like the Notre Dame in Paris. Personally, when I walk into gothic cathedrals I’m completely mesmerized by the sheer volume of space, the towering points leading into the sky and the peace stone offers. I ignore my atheist judgment because in a cathedral, religion is personal and under that stone, I feel humble. I always take the time to sit and take in the flood of emotion that penetrates me; like a seduction between the sheets through the physical world, the cathedral seduces my soul between its walls. Despite the peace and all it offers, however, in the end I’m still anti-religion.
After we left, a discussion led to questions: why did people go to such extreme lengths in the name of a God we actually don’t know exists or not and further, to build such magnificence in the name of something rather than using those funds to better our reality based world? To answer those, in part, is Dan Brown’s quote in “Inferno”. The moment I read it dawned on me that my humbling experience in a cathedral is synonymous with his explanation of why Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia, specifically, is so grand in size, “prodigious” as Brown calls it. However, his description applies, in part if not in whole, to all large cathedrals I believe and truthfully, one not need to be a worshiper of anything to feel the power grand size.
“As with all great shrines, Hagia Sophia’s prodigious size served two purposes. First, it was proof to God of the great lengths to which Man would go to pay tribute to Him. And second, it served as a kind of shock treatment for worshippers – a physical space so imposing that those who entered felt dwarfed, their egos erased, their physical being and cosmic importance shrinking to the size of a mere speck in the face of God…an atom in the hands of the Creator.” (pg. 394)
That’s amazing to me. It gives me goosebumps because Brown simplifies the truth about these huge structures created for God, real or not. They symbolize our humility yet show us our incredible power as human-based creators. God in this context represents a salvation, a source, a hope when life deals out its own levels and rings of hell we sometimes call reality (“Inferno/Satan”). It all simply has to be viewed from the most solution based perspective. Of course, one can view it all differently, as in the overpowering size of the “Creator” is an intimidation to the tiny “human-atom” …but then we go back to the mustard seed and we can drink coffee all night long over deep discussions about religion and still end up with our own personal opinion unchanged. That’s because faith sits in the inner core of a personal opinion. Some have faith in God while others in Evolution and still others in anyone who holds self-created authority. Perhaps the most powerful faith to have, however, is faith in the self.
The entire arena of religious bickering is old. Very old. Men fight over it like idiots, killing over who is right. There is no right, theres only forward. But you can’t settle that right-wrong war until you humble your ego before life shows different perspective. In order to be humble, you kind of have to experience something larger than yourself. It doesn’t have to be God or religion at all. It just has to be something grand in order to provoke a similar size comparison, metaphorically. What’s more humbling than something greater than yourself? Seek and thy shall find.
A cathedral is certainly a wonderful place to start. If nothing else, the acoustics and the architecture will astonish you in delight and make you say, “Wow, man created that?!” I’m quite thankful their passions manifested into the majestic beauty cathedrals have to offer. No matter what is said and done, the beauty of man’s architecture and creativity may not have been so amazing if God didn’t play a driving force in his pursuit to go beyond himself. Of course, we’re in a new era and my deepest wish is for mankind to suck up his losses and give the joystick to womankind and let’s see what happens. First on the agenda should be birth control and reproductive freedom as this directly affects the survival of our species.
…on a side note, Happy July 4th to my fellow Americans. May America prosper and the people prevail, while Washington DC humbles. Now go out and read Dan Brown’s “Inferno” so you really get what I’m talking about here.