The Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris is a remarkable work of faith, art, and engineering. Enter it, and you experience an out-of-this-world feeling of being lifted up to the heavens, floating up on a beam of light.
The person who initiated the building of the cathedral, Maurice de Sully, Bishop of Paris, did not get to see it finished. The construction was completed over a century later and refinements took centuries more.
The story of Notre-Dame de Paris was typical for the middle ages. As Durham World Heritage Site put it: “[T]he building of monumental cathedrals in the middle ages was a reflection of faith and the channel for much of the creative energy of medieval European society… As cathedrals took decades, and often even centuries to complete, few people who worked on them expected to see them finished during their lifetimes.”
Another magnificent Gothic cathedral, the Duomo di Milano took almost six centuries to complete! Again from Durham, “Being involved in the construction of a cathedral, even as the building patron, required a willingness to be part of a process that was larger than oneself.”
The nobility of undertaking a task far bigger than one’s life with the certainty of not seeing it completed is incomprehensible in the XXI century. Not only does the modern man have no attention span to plan ahead, he has no pride for what he leaves behind.
Decades-old houses will crumble long before those built centuries ago. Consumer goods bought today practically fall apart, and one could easily imagine our society slipping into a dystopia from a sci-fi story I once read. Imagine the government mandating that clothes be made to fall apart after 24 hours, to be replaced by new ones to stimulate the economy. And drinks are forbidden to quench thirst. Does it sound like the fitness industry today?
Taking the Long View on the Value of Strength
At StrongFirst, we refuse to chase our tails in pursuit of the next novelty, only to discard the tired yesterday’s fad. We are inspired by the ancient builders who built on a solid foundation and built to last. I envision a society of strong and proud people. Where every woman can do a pull-up and every man can deadlift at least two times his bodyweight without a belt. Where strength is built not in pursuit of vanity but duty.
The ancient Romans made exercise a legal requirement for all male citizens aged seventeen to sixty. I dream of a society where it is not a legal mandate but a moral imperative for all citizens, men and women, and way past sixty. Where it is incredibly uncool to be weak.
I am not naïve, and I realize the odds of realizing this vision are long. In a best case scenario, it would take decades. I accept that. I set the course for StrongFirst to become a cultural institution akin to the Boy Scouts a hundred years from now. An institution that has put the noble value of strength on a pedestal, a pedestal on which it has stood for most of the history of mankind. This is the mandate that I gave to our CEO Eric Frohardt. It matters little whether Eric or I live long enough to see this vision realized, as long as we get StrongFirst closer to its goal before passing on the baton.
A Foundation of Strength, Built to Last
This week marks two years since StrongFirst opened its doors. It is a small and meaningless number. Our organization has been around a decade and a half under a different name — and for millennia under the many names of our predecessors who valued strength, warriors and builders. And we are here to stay for centuries.
Long live strength!