Thursday, March 18, 2021

Standing Under the Arches

It was said that in ancient times, the Roman architects were required to stand beneath the arches they designed when the scaffolding was take down. If the design failed, it was the architect who suffered the consequences. This helped them pay close attention to their work!


 I love this story. It was the unspoken mantra of my school from the time when the teachers made the crucial decisions and re-built the arches when they crumbled. The trouble began—as it always does—when the decision-makers are not required to stand under the arch and when things topple, the stones fall on the heads of the teachers, the students, the school culture.


And as we near the end (fingers crossed!) of the pandemic, it’s time to take the story to heart as we set to work to re-build the future we deserve, to create the world we’ve always needed. We need to refuse every decision that fails to take in account who will be under the arches when the scaffolding is taken down. Who lives downstream from the polluted river, who lives next to the fracking, who has to keep working when a pandemic hits and is ignored by (former) leaders? 


And then as it slowly becomes clear that though the flood may hit the mansion on higher ground a bit later, it will hit it, that as we stand under the arch exposed to a deadly virus that doesn’t ask our race, religion, class or sexual preference, that there truly is no “them” and “us.” And most importantly, we need to constantly remember that if we feel any pleasure that we’ll be gone before the worst hits, we will have become the most hideous monster the human experiment can create, the one that bequeaths disaster to our children and puts them under the toppling arches. Serious stuff. 


This inspired by an hour-long talk by someone new to me, a Canadian poet named Shane Koyzcan. It was his image of being the architects of our future that reminded me of the Roman story above. Here is an excerpt from it (go to to view the talk): 


We are the architects of our own tomorrow. We can shape it to our vices or shape it to our virtues. We can choose the path we set ourselves upon. The blueprints to our fate are being drawn by the choices we make now.. – Shane Koyzcan


Amen to that and let us commit to standing under the arches of our construction. 


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