Cathedral Thinking: What It Is, Characteristics And Examples

Cathedral Thought

Most of our actions are done thinking about the short term and ourselves. For example, we may not want to recycle because we are too lazy to have to go to several different containers to throw away garbage, or we may spend our entire salary on living well and taking care of ourselves.

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

Thinking in the long term is something we don’t usually do, let alone thinking in the very long term, in a time when we will no longer be alive. Fortunately, There have been many who have thought this way, this type of psychological phenomenon called cathedral thinking Let’s look at it further below.

What is cathedral thought?

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

The architects knew that they would never see their works finished, but that didn’t mean they stopped building them Despite knowing that they would die long before their designs materialized into fully finished temples, the artists did not do it to have a beautiful building made by themselves, but thinking that they would leave future generations a resistant, durable and beautiful cathedral. that would leave a mark on all those who saw it. They knew that their work could be finished in hundreds of years, even almost a thousand, as in the case of Canterbury Cathedral, it took up to 900 years to finish!

The idea of ​​cathedral thought comes to take this same idea. Consists in the ability to conceive and plan projects with a long time horizon, of several years, even decades or centuries It is about doing something with a very long-term vision, thinking about a time in which you may no longer be in the same place or even no longer be alive, but that the people of that moment can enjoy or benefit from. of the actions we have decided to take in the present. It also means asking whether the actions we take today can harm future generations.

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Beyond the cathedrals

Along the history There have been many people who have thought long term, being empathetic with future generations, closely related 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 that took several centuries and that have had an impact on how the world is today.

An example of this is the time of great exploration, a period that spans from the end of the 15th century to the end of the 19th century. The explorers of the Americas, Indonesia, Australia or Africa for several centuries delved into the depths of unknown lands that they knew perfectly well that they were not going to fully discover, since it was humanly impossible. What they did was to be able to fill that large gap that still existed in the maps and that, once one of those explorers could not continue, another one would take his place and, thus, continue completing the world map.

Today exploration has taken off and ventured into space. First animals were sent into space, then humans and, later, they stepped on the Moon. These have not been small steps for Humanity, but they will come in larger steps. Someday 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 the Apollo 11 team had not set foot on our satellite.

But it is not necessary to explore new worlds to find people whose exploits serve to exemplify what cathedral thought is. Let’s think about families, all of them. The simple fact that parents save thinking about their children’s future when they are no longer around and that it also works for their grandchildren is an example of this type of thinking It is empathizing with people who do not yet exist, but at some point they will come and, if they can be given the best of lives, it is an ethical imperative to contribute to the extent that we can.

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Why should we start applying it

We could give many more examples of cases of cathedral thinking, both thinking about our descendants 100 years from now and about people who will not be of our blood, but who out of pure empathy we would like them to have the best of lives. There are many small gestures that we can do today that, if constant, can help people in the future.

There are issues that are very topical and since we do not notice (or do not want to see) their consequences, we do not do much to change the situation Although the ideal is to think in the long term, in a world where immediacy is rewarded and where we want results and feedback to be given quickly, sometimes we forget to think that things can take time to appear.

Climate change

Climate change is a clear example of why we should begin to change our way of managing and exploiting resources today, applying cathedral thinking to ensure that future generations can have a healthy planet to live on. Most adults today are quite unlikely to be alive when the Earth faces a climate disaster of the proportions of a science fiction movie, but it is no less likely that at some point this could happen.

Let’s think for a moment what will happen if we continue consuming and polluting as we do It is true that the temperature will not rise 5 degrees overnight nor will the polar caps melt like ice cream in summer, but what will the situation be like in 100 years? Will there be ice in the Arctic? Will the air be breathable? If our answers to these questions are rather negative, we should do something to reverse the situation. In 100 years we will not be alive, but our grandchildren will be. Do we want them to suffer?

COVID-19 pandemic

But we can also see an example where the future is now. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the world situation, causing an economic, health and humanitarian crisis that none of us who have experienced it will forget in our lifetime. What would have happened if someone, 50 years ago, had imagined that this could happen? What would occur to you that would be the most appropriate methods to avoid new infections? How would you avoid negative repercussions on the economy?

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If this exercise in cathedral thinking had been carried out, the situation would be very different in countries like Italy or Spain. It would not be a panacea, but the simple fact of having considered the possibility that a viral disease transmitted by aerosols could cause a pandemic would have led to warehouses with masks, plenty of methacrylate screens, and ways would have also been sought so that the entire world had food without having to leave home and risk getting sick.

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

It is clear that the future is unpredictable and unforeseen events can always occur that render many of our efforts of little use. Bad luck is part of our lives, but it is not necessarily the end of them. In the same way that cathedral builders did not always have good materials available or their workers did not make the structure correctly, our attempts to ensure that later generations live better can be frustrated by events that we do not control.

However, It is better to do something today so that the future is better than doing nothing and that generations to come remember us as those selfish people who did not want to change their lifestyle for comfort. If we change the way we consume resources, in a hundred years there will be a healthy planet to live on, and if someone had thought that there could be a pandemic in the future, today we would not have the economic and health crisis that COVID has caused. 19.

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