Tag Archives: Cathedral of St. John the Divine

Picking a Better Path

Progress as a decision maker: Chip and Dan Heath advocate for using a process to make life’s significant choices.

Cathedral of Saint John the Divine

In life, we spend most of our days on autopilot, going through our usual routines. We may make only a handful of conscious, considered choices every day. But while these decisions don’t occupy much of our time, they have a disproportionate influence on our lives.
– Chip and Dan Heath [1]

There is something quite remarkable about the Cathedral of St. John the Divine (please see Always Seeking Resistance), located in Morningside Heights neighborhood of Manhattan. This Gothic cathedral is one of the largest churches in the world, but the truly notable part for me is that the original plan was to create a grand Romanesque, Byzantine cathedral and not Gothic. Almost two decades of building had been done before the decision to change to a Gothic architecture was implemented, which required the amalgamation of the past construction that was already completed in the Romanesque and Byzantine design. [2]

Chip and Dan Heath describe in their new book, Decisive – How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work, a process for making the types of decisions that have a major impact in a person’s life. In order to highlight the importance of these types of decisions, they borrow the analogy of driving, pointing out that “…in our cars, we may spend 95% of our time going straight, but it’s the turns that determine where we end up.” [1]  Having gone through various twists and turns since construction began over a century ago, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine’s journey is still not yet complete since this beautiful building stands unfinished to this day. [2]

Jason Freeman is the founder of Work of Start.

1. Chip and Dan Heath. Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work (New York: Crown Business/Crown Publishing Group/Random House, Inc., 2013), 28.
2. Acquired from the Cathedral of St. John the Divine website – StJohnDivine.org

Always Seeking Resistance

Creating art requires moving outside of a comfort zone: insight from Seth Godin about the nature of being an artist.

Peace Fountain next to Cathedral of Saint John the Divine

The resistance is the confused and angry noise in our heads that shows up whenever we put our creativity on the line…The resistance is a symptom that you’re on the right track. The resistance is not something to be avoided; it’s something to seek out.
– Seth Godin [1]

At the end of a book publishing conference in New York, I met a friend for an excellent Thai lunch in Morningside Heights. She then offered to show me a neighborhood landmark and one of the largest churches in the world, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. The Gothic church is enormous and its edifice is beautiful, but it was the visually interesting statue within the outdoor Peace Fountain that first caught my interest. The statue demonstrates a collage of imagery including angelic battles, animals with distorted proportions, and a sleepy Man in the Moon, interwoven together as if part of some fantastical dream. A plaque near the fountain states that the “Peace Fountain celebrates the triumph of Good over Evil, and sets before us the world’s opposing forces–violence and harmony, light and darkness, life and death–which God reconciles in his peace.”

The contrasting imagery of good and evil the artist conveys with the Peace Fountain statue pushes the observer into a confusion of perception to challenge the mind. This chaotic representation of “the world’s opposing forces” shown in the statue has become a symbol for me of what Seth Godin describes as the resistance: the anxiety born from the risk of failure when sharing something original with the world. Seth Godin explains in his book The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly? that in order to create meaningful art “the artist seeks out the feeling of resistance and then tries to maximize it.” [1]

Jason Freeman is the founder of Work of Start.

1. Seth Godin. The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly? (New York: Portfolio/Penguin, 2012), 133-136.