Sagrada Familia:
Enlightenment on an Empty Bench

La grandeza del hombre se refleja en sus edificaciones. 
En los detalles, en el amor. 
Sobretodo en los cuartos de caracter sagrado. 
The first thing you will feel will be a rush of air, it will brush your face and neck like silk. It won’t be too cold, or too warm. It will be like mountain air, pristine. Its energy will tingle in you, your heart will be uplifted, you will feel a few steps closer to God. These first moments, these instants embody the nature of this place.
Standing amongst the ocean, the remnants of a Roman city combined with modern architecture, Sagrada Familia has a strength and character of its own that outshines other landmarks in Barcelona, Spain. In Catalan, the Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família is a Roman Catholic church with a length of 300ft, a spire of 560 ft and a capacity of 9,000 people. Its construction began in 1882 and was designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí. The construction has progressed slowly, as only a quarter of the project was complete when Gaudí died. Then, it was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War. Although its expected completion year is 2026, it is halfway built and open to the public.
Attempting to describe the temple’s intricate details: the way light is diffracted through the stained glass, the height of the ceiling above your head, the façades, the main door, would not do it justice. One could write an entire encyclopedia on this. So, instead, I will tell you the story of my epiphanies as I sat on a lonely bench surrounded by the glory of Sagrada Familia.
But first, I want you to see it…
Image result for sagrada familia
Rainbow light sprayed over my shoulders. I was people-watching, then moving my head up to the forest-themed sky of the church and down to the patterned floor. All those details, that height. I thought of how much weight this sacred space carries; all the hands that worked on each detail. Every window, every step, every intricate flower in the ceiling; all the minds that had to plan each step of the process for this building to stand as tall as it does; all the willpower it took, from every individual, from the one who carried the first rock to the one who set the budget; each hand, each finger, each nail, and it can account to the millions.
I sat in Sagrada Familia as it touched my heart, my chakras, my soul. The wonder of a building, of a masterpiece raised high above my head, like Babel’s tower. I realized that this type of tangible miracle cannot be created simply by one human hand. I felt God, any God, every God. I saw the demonstration of human potential and willpower. I saw how much can be achieved if truly desired. I understood that crafty hands with a willing heart can turn a rock into a sculpture of the Virgin Mary.
This is like the weight I carry, as if I was a building, there have been thousands of hands that have sculpted me, that have planned me, that had set my pieces into one. I am the product of a society, of generations, of my ancestor’s work, of coincidence and history.
I carry the thick thighs of a Polish woman and the taste for sweet that in Yiddish you call “nasher”, all of my mother’s ancestry. They were Jews from Krakow, Poland who escaped the holocaust and took a ship overseas to Costa Rica.
I carry white porcelain skin and the cheekbones of my paternal French ancestry. They were Jews from Alsace, who took a ship to America and landed in Nicaragua, soon before the war exploded.
And, what took them to Latin America? Coincidences, micro-stories.
I think…
Of my maternal great-grandmother escaping Auschwitz with two left shoes, then becoming a clapper in Costa Rica when she only spoke Yiddish.
Of my paternal great-grandmother running back to find her purse in a party in the middle of the Managua earthquake of 1972.
Of my maternal grandmother, counting grapes to give each child to take to school.
Of my paternal grandmother, following the lineage, attending charm school to be a lady.
Of my father enlisting in the U.S. Army to pay his education, being transferred to Panama and then meeting my mother at a bar, although he had met her before and forgot her name.
Of my mother selling tie-dyed t-shirts to pay for her college education, of meeting my father at a bar and not accepting his flirtation.
I also think of all the lines of people who came before, those whose names are not remembered. I carry this weight in my genes, it is in my skin and my soul.
It was hard for me to come to terms with myself and my roots. The sting was not wanting to be discriminated against. Its hard to be Latina, but not “looking Latina”; being Jewish in a Catholic country; being a woman in a patriarchal society.
Then, as I sat on that bench, I realized all the glory I have been carrying. This is where my seed was planted, and it was fertile ground. I have flourished.
I carry the glory of being Jewish, of being a part of a people that have survived persecution and displacement throughout history.
I carry the glory of being Costa Rican, a country of simplicity, peace, picturesque people and landscapes.
I carry the glory of a strong lineage of women who have overcome hardship and have known how to shape a family of high values.
I carry the glory in my thighs, in my tongue, in my cheekbones, in my white skin. All of which mark me as different, all of which have constructed me. I carry this weight in my genes, in my skin, in my soul.
Now, I realize that like Sagrada Familia, each human is its own building. We are malleable, constantly being constructed and deconstructed. But our roots, our blueprint do not change. Designed by God, they must be accepted by us. Then we understand the power and our potential.
As we understand how we are constructed, we construct the world around us. We create.
I sat on that lonely bench, illuminated by my history, by the history of this church. Illuminated by the sun-rays and by that first breath of air. The marvel of will power and love as it surrounded me.
Now, today, I refuse to believe in evil. I refuse to believe in the “I can’t” and “never”. I refuse to believe in anything but love.
Each individual its own building, touched by thousands of nails, fingers, hands. Each individual created by love. And, if we are created by love, that is the only thing we can give back to the world.
It started in the glory of Sagrada Familia for me. Now, I see it everywhere. It is all love, every building, every park, every car. Our modern world, a display of human potential.
by Goldy Levy

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