Without These Structural Components
Cathedral construction is a collection of directed social events. Consider the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. On Christmas Day 1812 our old friend Tsar Alexander I, in celebration of Napoleon’s withdrawal from Russia, channeled the spirit of Russian society and issued a proclamation that a great cathedral be erected in honor of the Divine intervention that rescued Russia from her French invaders. It took seven decades of intense social cooperation before the project was ready for consecration. The social nature of the cathedral’s construction — architectural consultation, traffic in tradesmen, fundraising from the folk — cannot be overly emphasized.
Similarly, the building of a person relies on such social intercourse. Take Princess Marya Bolkonsky. This is a young woman who, under the power of her father, has been deprived of society. The result, though we like her very much, is that she is, well, a bit odd and ill-adjusted to social life. But that is starting to change. Her father is now dead and, admittedly not under the most ideal of circumstances, she is taking part more and more in social activity.
Marriage is the material of the cornerstone of society — family — and today Princess Marya is brought one step closer to the consecration of that sacrament as Aunt Malvintseva arranges for Marya and Nikolai to meet again. Immediately the effects of this small social interaction are apparent:
It was as if a light had been kindled in a carved and painted lantern and the intricate, skilful, artistic work on its sides, that previously seemed dark, coarse, and meaningless, was suddenly shown up in unexpected and striking beauty. For the first time all that pure, spiritual, inward travail through which she had lived appeared on the surface. All her inward labour, her dissatisfaction with herself, her sufferings, her strivings after goodness, her meekness, love and self-sacrifice — all this now shone in those radiant eyes, in her delicate smile, and in every trait of her gentle face.
This is the individual as flying buttress, as compound pier, as pointed arch. Without these structural components the whole edifice crumbles.
Our relations with one another are like a stone arch, which would collapse if the stones did not mutually support each other, and which is upheld in this very way.
Seneca, Letter XCV