Vol. 3, No. 7
Imagine what it was like in this very spot where you are sitting 3,500 years ago. Think about the deep, dark forest. The only inhabitants of the area are a few native Indians. It's a superstitious time with sketchy remembrances of what it was like here several hundred years before.
Then one day, an 80-year-old man shows up and begins clearing an area for a building. He works alone. After clearing the underbrush, the man begins digging footings for a building. These footings are not shallow but rather deep, all the way down to bedrock. When the footings are completely dug, the man begins building the foundation walls. Slowly, stone by stone, the foundation walls rise. An apprentice is now working with the man. As the foundation reaches ground level, the old man, now 120 years old, passes the responsibility of continuing the work on the walls to his young helper. The old man dies and the young man carries on.
Over the next 1,000 years, the scene repeats itself. The walls of the building slowly rise. Workers arrive, labor for years, then pass on. Sometimes only one man labors on the building. Sometimes two or three men work at the same time. Some of these men know each other, however, more often than not, they are strangers. One might work at one end of the building while the other works at the opposite end. There is no written blue print. Each worker seems only to know what his small section of the project should look like.
Over the centuries, the walls continue to rise. A very small entry door is framed into one wall. Although every man's stylistic effort is plainly different, the mosaic never seems out of balance. Then, one day, after 1,000 years of work by some 32 different men, the walls are completed to a uniform height and work on the structure stops.
For 400 years, no work takes place on the building. Weeds and vines grow over the foundation, and branches, leaves and dirt fill the uncovered interior. Oddly enough, while no construction on the building itself takes place, a tall, carefully maintained fence is erected by a group of men self-chosen to protect the old building. Gatekeepers are assigned to keep the curious from approaching the old wall. Passersby, standing outside the fence, wonder about the history of the building. The memory of the builders of the old walls fades into obscurity.
Then, one day, a strange looking man is seen inside the building -- how he got inside the fence, no one seems to know. This man seems intent on sweeping out the interior and clearing the weeds and vines that obscure the foundation walls. He says that he is preparing the site for the "master builder," the one who will complete the structure. Crowds gather to see what will happen next.
Then, another mysterious man appears, this time boldly walking past the gatekeepers and into the freshly swept old building. In one hand he carries a set of blueprints for the structure, in the other hand he carries a set of carpenter's tools.
Construction resumes, apprentices are chosen. Under the direction of the master builder, roof trusses are framed, and lifted into place. The crowds grow larger as the sound of construction fills the air. Word spreads. The curious come from miles away. Excitement is in the air.
The gatekeepers are not happy. "By whose authority did you pass through the fence?" "Who gave you permission to work on the building?" "Don't you know that the building is finished -- it is a monument -- it doesn't need a roof or a door!" The gatekeeper's complaints do not deter the master builder. Within 3 years, the roof is finished. The gatekeepers are particularly incensed when the master builder directs the widening of the doorway and hangs a much wider door on the opening. The gatekeepers conspire against and then brutally murder the master builder. Satisfied that their livelihood is protected, they go back to their jobs as protectors of the fence. They tell the crowds to ignore the new roof and doorway. It will soon rot, they say, and the old building will then be just as it always was.
To the gatekeepers' surprise, work to finish the building continues. Several apprentices of the master builder put finishing touches on the exterior and begin furnishing the interior. The door is always left open. The fence around the building begins to crumble about this same time and around 40 years after the master builder was killed, what remains of the fence is completely torn down and hauled away. The apprentices continue their finishing touches until finally, one day, some 1,500 years after the footings were started, the building is complete. Some 40 men have contributed their efforts to its construction. It is a masterpiece.
2,000 years have passed since the old building was completed. Down through the ages, men and women who love and admire its beauty and design have cared for it and kept its grounds clean and trimmed and have kept the door always open. Attempts have been made by enemies of the old building to chip away at its foundation, walls, roof or furnishings. Some have attempted to add on to the old building. Counterfeit buildings that look similar in some ways have been erected in the area. But those that love the original see to it that the old structure remains intact. The patina of time of has only added to its beauty. Old yet timeless, diverse yet singular, accessible but not vulnerable, simple yet profound; the remarkable old building still stands waiting for today's admirers to pass on and tomorrow's admirers to arrive.