November 17. “Great works are performed not by strength but by perseverance.” (Samuel Johnson)
A few years back I had a business trip to Cologne Germany. While there I was within walking distance of the Cologne Cathedral. This Cathedral is an enormous, ornate and very beautiful building. During World War II, when Cologne was heavily bombed by the Allied forces, the Cathedral was one of the few structures to escape damage.
One of the things I learned about the Cathedral was that construction on it was begun in 1248, and was not completed until 1880. Yes, you read that right, it took 632 years to complete the project. When it was completed it was the tallest building in the world at 516 feet, a record it held for 4 years.
When I read this quote today, I thought of that Cathedral. It is an edifice that exemplifies the idea behind this quote. I think anyone who would visit would agree that the completion of the Cathedral is a great feat. And anyone who knows the history of the building would conclude that 632 years demonstrates that the people of Cologne had quite a lot of perseverance to finish the project.
In today’s world, there would be no tolerance for a construction project that stretched 632 years. People would be fired, the original, unfinished building would be scrapped, new architects and contractors would bid on the project and so on. There would not be the patience needed to persevere for that amount of time.
I can guarantee that there aren’t any projects I am working on that will still be around 632 years from now, let alone incomplete. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t opportunities every day to show perseverance.
If great works were done by great strength, then the tallest and strongest among us would always be the ones who completed them. But great works aren’t done in a short time, or by single acts of strength. They are completed by diligence and sticking to a plan for a long period of time until the job is done.
Perseverance is that force within me that keeps me pulling at the oars, that keeps me making trips back and forth hauling the wheel barrow. Perseverance is what sits me down at my desk every day to work a little more on whatever project is at hand. It is the force at play when a parent patiently teaches a child day after day, knowing that no single lesson will do the job. Without perseverance, things are started by not completed. It is only by sticking to the job that great works can be accomplished.
Today my reflection is on perseverance. Today I am considering all of the great works that I have been a part of, and how the fact that many people had to keep their shoulder to the wheel to complete them.