In my blue jeans and tan boots, with my blonde hair pulled into a neat ponytail behind dark glassses, I found myself deposited out of Union Station and blinking in the bright twinkling lights of Chicago.
Encountering one Christmas tree building after another, all lit from base to tip, I walked the three blocks to Ogilvie.
Union Station is old and under renovation, so that it’s impressive build is shrouded in an ugly cloak right now.
This station’s open, curved entrance, full of reflecting glass and white painted steel, steals my breath.
It’s an amazing thing – architecture. We take it for granted, walking next to it in the street without even noticing. Not stopping to think about how it got there, the history behind it, the intricate workings inside.
But now I stop to think.
All those loads of metal and wood and natural materials stacked together to support staggering weights.
Sometimes, I marvel that a scale, a tiny little object, can hold me.
But I’m nothing compared to a normal house on a thin foundation.
And what about a skyscraper?
Nothing forces us to stop and consider more readily than a skyscraper, with its steel intertwining arches soaring to the heights.
I lean against a high cafe table and admire it. But soon, as usual, I’m overthinking.
It’s a modern fad, of architects, builders, and business people, to show off the bare bones of a structure, to seek to elicit this reaction of admiration from us. This praise to the feats of man! And it works. It did in the days of the cathedrals, and now it works in the days of a connected world: airports, train stations, business structures that tower to the sky like Babel.
What a monumental achievement of man! What a hero of the world! What a remarkable certificate to his ability.
They think they’ve discovered all the natural wonders of the world – the Grand Canyon, Mount Everest, the frigid caps of the north. As the world has been conquered and the earth seen, there is naught left but to build our own wonders.
My heart clenches and I frown in frustration.
Why, when I look upon magnificent structures of humanity, after the first flush of admiration has cooled, do I feel such cynicism? I want to admire, respect, and feel uplifted as the architect intended. But I feel only shame at the hubris of man, and despise those who made the structure. Is this a fault inside myself, separate from any intent of the architect, that makes me feel ashamed? Or could it be another modern fad, the one about respecting nature, living in harmony, and not condescending in our arrogance to “master” it?
Maybe I’ve bought into both fads somehow.
In my mind, my rational part, I believe in a unity between mastery and respect, but what does that mean?
A waiter interrupts my musing to tell me he has to bring in the tables and chairs to lock up, and we smile at each other. He wishes me a good night and bids me stay safe.
I descend to the lower levels below the exposed beams, where once again, enshrouded in covered structures, I take architecture for granted. I sit down at empty tables and reflect.
In our democracy, the word “master” has taken on a derogatory connotation. But it was not so originally. A master, a good master, is not a micromanager or a slave driver. He does not force things to work against their nature.
When I stop to think about it, the true meaning of “master” relates to one who works in harmony with others. Ultimately, he is the guiding force behind a group of people. He brings them together for the benefit of their endeavors, to help them to achieve the greatest results of which they are capable. He connects them.
This is a true master. It is the mastery of which we as human beings, with intellects and a will to work, can relate to the world. We are not meant to dominate, we are meant to nurture.
Relieved, I return to admiring the magnificence of humanity’s achievements. The first step toward harmony with the earth, I think, is not to tear down’s humanity’s achievements in my mind, but for me to understand and live the true definition of “master.”
Shame never constructed anything.
Bidding farewell to Ogilvie, I board another achievement of man and leave the towers of the city behind me in the night.