Ken Follett's 'The Pillars of the Earth'
‘Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover’
Religion used to provoke conflict and arouse wars in its name, it caged minds into a way of thinking that divided people into good and bad, with no in between. Luckily I grew up with the wealth of elucidation, information at my disposal whenever I want it. Therefore the concept of a religion is something I do not subscribe to. For me the remains of today’s religions have become obsolete. They might have had their specific, even necessary, role for centuries. Today the age of information and the possibilities of broadening mind and perception on things have stripped religion from its core purpose - to think and decide for others. We might yet come to the conclusion that no good has ever come of worshipping something or someone (religion or government or economic systems) and fight in their name for theirs is the only truth. No good has ever come from trying to convert or force people into anything in the first place.
But with all that said, I do not want to condemn.
The essence of every religion is love and compassion, hence my absolute fascination with buddhism as taught by the Dalai Lama or Ghandi’s approach to freeing exploited peoples. I do not subscribe to buddhism or hinduism either, I subscribe to love and the core values of humanity, stretched out to all beings on this planet, even the planet herself. This is what religion should look like in my humble opinion.
True devotion, honest love and compassion, abdicate capitalising measures of success and wealth that are the cause for so much suffering and pain.
Long talk, short conclusion- I am not fond of religion, so at first I was not sure if a book about creating a Cathedral in Medieval Ages is something that could excite me, at all. More-so when this book is nearly a thousand pages strong. But the alternative was a thriller, and I am not very fond of criminal suspense either, in my opinion there is too much of crime already going on in our society and therefore no need for me to focus my attention some more on suspense, killers, death and investigations.
Hence, I read ‘The Pillars Of The Earth’ by Ken Follett.
How first impressions can deceive has never been more clear to me than after finishing. It read itself like binge-watching a series, with the utmost satisfaction that I had not to wait a week for the next episode or a year for the next season. The story stretches over four decades, diving deep into nearly all of the seven characters that are able to mature within the time the tale is told.
I am amazed.
Not only did I enjoy it, I was feverish to find out what happens to the characters, I was eager to turn every page, there never was a dull passage ever and the way each character evolves, how their choices affect their and other people’s lives, is truly fascinating.
‘Call To Authenticity’
First of all do I want to thank Ken Follett for portraying a man of the Church as he should be, in my modest point of view anyway. Philipp, the main character who set his mind on building a cathedral to honour his God, vowed chastity, obedience and poverty.
He sticks to all of them. Not only that, throughout the nearly sixty years he is living within the pages of this book, he challenges himself to self-growth, compassion and loving his enemies as well as his friends. He never gives up. He may falter, he may doubt his motives at times, yet he always acts without ulterior motives, at least none for his own, selfish benefits. He never strives for more power. He merely wants to praise God, which as he is a monk, does make sense. He is a character with high morales and principles, and that it is rare to being able to act on these high grounds throughout a lifetime. Yet I cannot but wonder what our world would look like today if a mere ten percent of religious office holders, in Rome or Pakistan or anywhere really, would be sticking to love and compassion, renouncing world wealth, power or sovereignty of truth. Of course within this setting of “obedience” to the constitution of a monastery provides the occasional groundwork for argumentation against him; being hypocritical for example. Nonetheless he, as the main character of this story, is a personality I care deeply about and would consider as a role model. Which is absolutely stunning to me, he is a man of the Church after all. I have to add though that only without the robe and the restricted belief system that only Christians enter heaven and a few other clerical, religious approaches, would I imagine him as a role model for me. Apart from his inspiring loyalty to his own principles, he always persist, he always finds another way, he always keeps on going whatever life throws at him. It truly is inspiring. Fictional story it might be but I firmly believe that there are indeed people out there that have the same backbone, the same persistence, the same core belief systems, morals, principles that they stick to, no matter what. Ghandi, for one example. He saw injustice and there was no possibility other than going on, step by step, following his own authentic, inner guidance system of faith, moral and principle. With a good portion of intellect and common sense.
Philipp, the main character, therefore describes for me the essence of authenticity: There is no backing out, there is no un-knowing to knowing.
Which brings me to the second most moving aspect of this work. Over four decades the author describes the ups and downs, highs and lows between the Good and Evil. One time the bad side takes control, then the good side turns it around miraculously. Every single character that we witness throughout this book, marked as righteous or corrupt, pours their life’s energy into something, good or bad, and in doing so all of them affect each other’s lives. Not only that, over the course of time they affect not only their inner circle but a wider population with their actions. They create poverty or wealth, support or let-down, community or loneliness. Over these forty years, all situations become visible pillars of a structured plan for why everything played out the way it needed to.
There is injustice, violence, grief, war, bloodshed, yet all of it somehow leads to self-growth, reflection, self-development, love, kindness, compassion, prosperity, solidarity. And overall, doing the thing that sparks joy within your heart, becomes the thing you are destined to do, evolves in the thing that after all these years comes to fruition, in spite of all of the setbacks you had to take. Goals are achieved, burned to the ground, dreamt anew, build anew and before long turn into a gift to the next generation.
And here is where the honesty of this story really lies, within its ability to show the fascination for life itself. Only after decades are we able to see why things happen to us, for us, with us. How we respond to them and why. What action we took and what we became because of them. One might argue that it always is for the sake of the reader that there is a happy ending, and I agree. But then I want to ask, why not?
Isn’t life all about hope, dreams and aspiration to dream some more? Why should there not be a happy ending to forty years of constant challenges? Struggles, hardships but also happiness and joy that as a whole enable life itself to be experienced. With the ultimate outcome that in the end we are looking back either on a life of regrets or a life of happiness.
We as a human race are designed to change, to think, to envision, to create, to live life consciously. We as a species are enabled to think of whatever comes to us and make it a reality. Why settle for less than the ultimate utopia of contentment, alignment, commitment?
I refuse to give my mind’s energy to anything less than the highest possible dream it can conjure, I am restless to settle for less than what my brain can conceive as a possibility of reality. Probably one of the many reasons why this book spoke to me like not one has for a long time.
A fictional story, oozing with unbelievably realistic description for detail, done with unfathomable understanding for and research of professions, hardships, possibilities and lives during medieval times. Alongside the main theme of self-reflection, self-growth and self-development for all of the seven main characters. All put together by the sheer inexhaustible talent of the author to effortlessly bring a whole world into existence, revolving around the decade long task of erecting a building to worship God. A cathedral.
When I came to the last one hundred pages I slowed my pace down. I did not want it to end. This is how good the reading experience was for me. I did not want to let go of any of the characters, I wanted to keep on witnessing their trials and errors, their joys and celebrations. I wanted to stay with them for the next generation to come.
There are no more words than only this: I highly, decidedly, deeply, eminently recommend this book.
For it is not just a book, it is a manifest of the life we live and the legacy we leave behind.
From my heart to yours,
love and light, beloved souls