“Ignorant people see life as either existence or non-existence,
but wise men see it beyond both existence and non-existence
to something that transcends them both;
this is an observation of the Middle Way.”
(Chaple ceiling Museo Delle Cappelle Mediciee ( the De Medici chapel) / Florence, Italy /
Julie Cook / 2018)
For whatever reason, I have always been one who looks up when I go into someplace new.
Especially when traveling and visiting different locations.
When I walk into a massive Cathedral or other historic building…
I have learned that what’s on the ceiling often makes the ceiling more impressive than
what remains at eye level…
And yet so many people miss out as they never bother looking up.
I’ve even been known to look up in elevators wondering why the ceiling is a mirror.
(the elevator to the Luxembourg Parc Hotel in Paris / Julie Cook / 2018)
Early domed temples such as the Roman temple, the Pantheon,
situated in the heart of Rome, whose open oculus continues to capture our imagination,
is an early case in point.
The Pantheon’s opening was not simply left open in order to be some sort of a famous
architectural oddity or simply to allow light to enter into a windowless temple, but was
rather due to the fact that early engineers and builders could not figure out how to actually
enclose such a massive free-standing dome without wooden beam supports..
of which would prevent it from caving in upon itself from the sheer unsupported weight.
Yet the opening was a cool way to follow the sun, follow the time of day,
while watching the rain pour indoors…
(Pantheon oculus / Julie Cook / 2018)
The open niches along the dome’s surface are not only a decorative purpose but rather
work to help solve some of the weight issues.
The decorative openings required less concrete, therefore reducing the weight of the structure.
Yet figuring out how to close the opening was still a conundrum…
That was until the early 1400’s when the artist, designer, and architect Filippo Brunelleschi
was credited with designing the first successful free-standing dome for the Cathedral of Florence,
the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore…
A cathedral that had gone without its roofed dome for over a hundred years as no one could
figure out how to successfully design and execute such a structure without wooden supports.
Services and rainy days did not mix well.
Cathedrals and civic buildings all over medieval and gothic Europe have been constructed
with similar massive domes, impressive soaring towers and open barrel vaults complete
with their flying buttresses and ribbed vaults…
impressive engineering feats accomplished by relatively low tech societies.
(vaulted ribbed ceiling of Sainte Suplice, Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2018)
(ribbed vault of Norte Dame Cathedral / Julie Cook / 2018)
Eventually, ceilings would become extensions of their surroundings, lavishly
painted and decorated…
pulling our eyes upward and beyond.
(Chaple ceiling Museo Delle Cappelle Mediciee / Florence, Italy / Julie Cook / 2018)
(Both of these images, with one being a detail, are in the Pantheon in Paris/ Julie Cook / 2018)
(Both of these domed ceilings are found in Les Invalides / Paris, France
/Julie Cook / 2018)
(Santa Maria sopra Minerva/ Rome, Italy / Julie Cook / 2018)
(St Peter’s, The Vatican / Rome, Italy / Julie Cook / 2018)
I’ll be the first to admit that the better pictures of ceilings are usually the ones when
the photographer is able to stand directly underneath the very center…
much like I managed to do for the first image.
Nice, round, equal and symmetrical.
Most of the other shots are taken at angles due to the inability to get smack dab in the middle.
Therefore they just aren’t as visually appealing and just don’t offer that same sense of
And so whereas the middle seems to be a pretty good spot when wanting to look directly upward
while wanting to take a pretty symmetrical photograph, I’m left wondering about the
middle we’ve seemed to have worked ourselves into in this nation of ours.
We’re nearly smack dab center in this ongoing battle of tug of war.
Or so say our last several years of elections.
With this past week’s elections being not much different.
Contrary to what either side wants, prefers or hopes for…
there were no waves…blue or red.
Deplorables came out in similar numbers as their progressively liberal counterparts.
There were no landslides.
Candidates won not by large margins but in some cases, just by a handful of
just enough extra votes.
Several key elections are still, 3 days after the fact, still up in the air…teetering
like a seesaw swaying toward one then swaying back to the other as the numbers are simply
too close to that 50 / 50 mark.
Recounts and runoffs are more common than not.
Candidates are lawyering up, refusing to concede while others are prematurely claiming
It’s become a messy situation from sea to shining sea.
We are a divided nation almost right down the middle.
Divided and exceedingly divisive.
Yet as to what this middle is and as to why it seems so hate-filled, I am uncertain…
But what I do know is that we are standing almost divided directly in half.
And whereas equally divided usually means equally weighted and balanced…
that is sadly not our case.
I don’t understand that despite our being divided nearly equally half in half…
there is such a growing divide of vehemence and discord.
Our symmetry is woefully skewed.
And so I think I’ll just continue looking upward.
Setting my sights up above.
Still lifting my view heavenward as the view upward seems much better than what’s
currently here at eye level…
“I can see how it might be possible for a man to look down upon the
earth and be an atheist,
but I cannot conceive how he could look up into the heavens and say there is no God.”