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Essays by KT

"Cathedral Within" Reflection

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CL 100

14 September 2008

            Citizenship is a key factor in civic engagement.  When a citizen becomes more committed to their community, the level of service within that community is likely to increase.  The dilemma comes when trying to figure out how to get citizens to become more active in their community, why some are so active while others are not.  Petersmeyer suggests that the factor that causes one person to become so much more involved within their community is not so much learning about a problem within the community.  Rather, it is learning more about yourself and what abilities you have that can be shared with the community in order to solve the problem.  Everybody has strength to contribute, and because of this, social capital is created.

There is a great treasure in working as a community, in working as a team.  Jeff Swartz illustrates in a letter to Bill Shore that “humanity [is] capable of transcendence (p. 115)”, only when they accept their social responsibility, “only when individuals commit themselves to each other” (p. 114).  Change is possible.  Humanity benefits when there is community.  Therefore, community should be a priority.  Community, according to Shore, can be accomplished through the creativity of the individual and the individual’s commitment to the others.

What Shore refers to as “cathedral building” is what Koestler calls “bisociation theory” (p. 145).  This theory comes from the idea that everything created by humans is the result of at least two previously separate ideas; many ideas from different places can be combined to create something new.  This is where “share our strength” comes in; not as in Bill Shore’s antipoverty and antihunger organization.  Rather, “share our strength” as in the idea behind Shore’s organization: let us literally “share our strength”.  Our strengths can be these ideas, as well as abilities, which can be added to each other in order to create more social capital.  Having a wide variety of interests, abilities, ideas, and activities within a community results in more of an ability to get things accomplished, due to this increase in social capital.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said in one of his speeches, “One of the greatest agonies of life is that we are constantly trying to finish that which is unfinishable”.  The ancient Cathedral builders put their whole heart into working on something that would not be finished within their lifetime, something they would not see completed.  So, also, we should put our heart into the building of our community.  We will not see the completed masterpiece in our lifetime because it is a job which will never be finished.  Things can always be added or restored and somehow improved.  As Dr. King said in reference to First Kings, chapter eight, “It’s well that it’s in thine heart.”

As well as the group aspect of a community there is also the individual level.  We should not only strive to be like the ancient Cathedral builders in our community; we should also strive to be like them in our own heart.  We should set goals for ourselves and seek to accomplish them.  It takes time and patience, focus and determination, and a lot of learning from our mistakes, but change is possible and one person can make a difference.  According to Shore, what we need is to “visualize a result, think backward, and implement forward” (p. 109). 

Bill Shore’s “The Cathedral Within” shows me the cathedral I have begun to build within myself and the cathedral being built within my community.  What this book has suggested to me is that it is necessary to first begin to build the cathedral within ourselves.  As Vaclav Havel puts it “the salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in the human power to reflect, in human meekness, and in human responsibility.”  Then it is possible to begin the building of the cathedral within our community.  We cannot contribute what we do not have.

Although cathedral building begins on an individual level, it cannot stop there.  It is a team effort.  A team is a group of people who, in spite of being different and because of being different, can work together toward a common goal.  Some differences can be overlooked in order to accomplish the goal.  Other differences between them as individuals make them stronger as a team.  Such difference creates a variety of interests, ideas and specialties.  This creates social capital and, therefore, makes the team stronger.

In “The Cathedral Within”, Shore seems to mention children a lot, and their role in society as the future of the world.  Petersmeyer suggests that learning about yourself and your own abilities is more contributing to becoming involved within their community than is learning about the community’s problems.  I therefore believe that focusing on the future of our world and their education is the best investment of our time.

Being able to educate children about material knowledge is necessary.  Being able to teach them in such a way that they want to seek to know more, especially about themselves, their abilities, and how they can use their strengths to contribute to the wellbeing of the world is even more important.  This is necessary knowledge for me in my future in community service because I plan on getting a job that involves working with children.  I feel that the best service I can do for the community is to show love to the children and to teach them.

“Sensitive dependence on initial conditions” is scientists’ term for the snowball effect (p. 42).  One event experienced by one person does not result in only that one person experiencing that one event.  Everything that we do does not just affect ourselves.  Rather, it affects others as well, either directly or indirectly.  Therefore, it is best that these experiences are positive ones in which we learn more about ourselves as well as others.

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