So, I have just returned from my fifth tour of duty at the Metamorphosis Atelier in Strasbourg, one of the only—and one of the best---makeup schools in France. I taught a great group of men and women the finer points of creature design, paintwork and sculpture, ate Coq au Vin and spaetzle (an Alsatian specialty) and visited a castle.
Aside from all of this, one of the specific journeys I always make when visiting is to the Cathédrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg, an ancient cathedral in the heart of the city. 2015 marks the ONE-THOUSANDTH year since the first stone was laid for the building, and there is a diagram to one side revealing the many stages that the structure has gone through in reaching its final and current state.
Photos do not do justice to this unutterable tour de force of craftsmanship and design; it is one of the few sites I have visited in the world that stuns you into silence when it comes into view. Minute filigree, hundreds of figures and gargoyles, sumptuous fluting and scrollwork, richly ornate stained glass… it is beyond beautiful, and transcends the very concept of structure and art, a singular masterwork of Medieval architecture.
Thus, I cannot help but be reminded while I sit entranced by this construction that there is a part of the world still concerned with what some Hollywood starlet wore on the red carpet at the latest meaningless awards show; with how much better-looking some think they are than others; with how important certain folks imagine their meager achievements on this planet to be. No one I have ever met will create anything as lasting or as stunning as this testament to God, and yet so many I meet have egos that far outweigh their importance or their worth. It’s hard to admit, but I am one of them.
Yet, even though the things I create are destined to be lost through the vagaries of time and decay, I find myself inspired by the sight of things I will never achieve; it gives me something to strive for, even if the goal is unattainable. Perhaps the very impossibility of such accomplishments is what makes this inspiration all the sweeter; by never truly reaching a goal, there is always something to reach for.
Most important, however----it humbles me, as if I’ve been chastened by God Himself to remember my place. I can imagine an importance to my life, to my work, and to my minor successes, but ultimately these thoughts feel delusional when I view things of such magnitude. I’m brought back down to earth by witnessing something of such unearthly magnificence.
And somehow….there is a kind of beauty in that as well.