An Unfinished Symphony

Monday 14th August, 2023

The skyline of Barcelona is dominated by the 18 towers of Sagrada Familia, an exquisite Cathedral that has been a work in progress since 1882. When its architect, Gaudi died in 1926 the Cathedral was less than a quarter finished, Gaudi wasn’t worried, he’d designed it that way, as he famously pointed out “The patron of this project is not in a hurry.” Since then there have been seven more chief architects for the project and though they have all remained as faithful as possible to Gaudi’s plans, changes and modernisations have inevitably happened, not least because much of Gaudi’s work was lost to a fire during the Spanish Civil War.

I wonder what Gaudi would make of his Cathedral if he could see it now, from what I’ve read of him I think he’d be pleased. I’ve never visited Barcelona but I would love to, I’d be fascinated to see the progress, visible in the difference between the old weathered stone and the new, the changing style of the artwork within the Cathedral and the different approaches to construction taking place now in the 21st Century to the old methods of the late 1800’s. It must be fascinating.

I’m no Gaudi but I do like to build, my little plastic LEGO bricks might not be a patch on the towering heights of what will be the world’s tallest church towers, and my living room is far from being declared a UNESCO world heritage site but they bring me joy. Like the Sagrada Familia, the LEGO village that dominates my dining room is ‘unfinished’ and I’m sure it always will be, because just as I finish building something, I have an idea for some finishing touches, or perhaps a way I could have done that better, and once again I’m pulling down a bit of the old, enhancing, creating, improving. I’m sure I know many artists who are the same with whatever project they have on the go, always a work in progress.

We’re a bit like that, or at least we should be. Humanity: the unfinished symphony. Always learning, reaching, growing, improving. It’s not just metaphorical, it’s a physical process that takes place in our brains for our whole lives, we never stop creating new neural pathways. Sure, there are times in our life when we are particularly developing, most notably the first five years, and times when our current pathways will break down and new ones form, such as puberty, but even into adulthood and old age our brains re-shape and re-form themselves as new information is presented to us, as we experience new ideas, new worlds and new philosophies. It’s all quite amazing really.

Humanity’s progression isn’t just an individual pursuit either. Each growing individual contributes to the maturity of the whole, each generation learns something new and passes it to the next. My children’s generation are regularly called the snowflake generation, I think they’re amazing! My children have so much empathy for the vulnerable, they will not tolerate homophobia, transphobia, racism, they care about the feelings of others, they have learned to embrace who they are, express their individuality and their emotions in a way the generations before them have failed to do, I can look at my children and see right there in front of me humanity growing, becoming better, it’s magnificent.

We have a responsibility, not only to ourselves but to our children and our grandchildren, to the whole human race, to the Universe to do this, to embrace growth, to do better, to be better, because, and I’m really letting my inner nerd out now, because to quote my all time favourite line from a movie “that is what it is to be human, to make yourself better than you are”

(10 nerd points to the first person to name the movie)