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  • Writer's pictureJose Arrieta

Cathedrals of Trade, Science, and Sports

Growing up catholic I learned about the Omni-ness of God. God is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, and omnibenevolent. As time went by, I learned that the God people follow is not always the one Abraham believes in, even fervent Catholics believe in the power of capital, commerce, and trade much more than in the power of the God that spared either Isaac or Ishmaeil.

Yet, the pantheon of current society is broader than trade. Some of us, myself included believing strongly in the power of science to improve society and spend countless hours purifying our brains in the pursuit of piety and publications. Others believe in sports and the feeling of oneness it creates. Indeed, religious festivals such as the World Cup or the Olympics are the closest our society gets to a global communion. In the barriers open and we are in awe of what being human can entail.

I am being purposely heretical. Yet, for a reason. The quintessential question to build a church is whether people would die for it. As Reza Aslan would say, few people would die for Spinoza's god but many have died to preserve trade (read Gabriel Garcia Marquez), science (poor Galileo), and sports (1972 Olympics). The second question would be whether they garner a following, as individual martyrs can't wield a war, in that sense, the answer should be yes but I leave it to you to decide. I come from an armyless country and I do not know what it means for a people to feel like going to war.

Back to the elephant in the room. Cathedrals are the repository of most of the accrued profits of history's rich people. Indeed, the hold of religious authorities was so strong that religious temples were at the forefront of architecture for centuries (art and science as well). Cathedrals as the one in Sevilla, Hagia Sophia, Kólner Dom, and the Basilicas of Saint Peter, Santiago, and Saint Paul are some of the more awe sticking places in the world. As an amateur photographer, I have thousands of pictures where I aim at but fail at capturing my awe at being in these spaces.

Interestingly, architectural awe is common in the cathedrals of other religions. Come to La Bombonera in Buenos Aires, or the Santiago Bernabeu and every day you will see a couple of tourists with watery eyes as the oneness of sports fills their hearts. Indeed, London's Wembley Stadium is known as the "Cathedral of Football". Every year, millions do their pilgrimage to these cathedrals, or if distance prohibits visit their local church on a periodical basis.

In the frontier of Switzerland and France, lies one of the world's largest cathedrals and the most complex thing ever built, the Large Hadron Collider, the place where scientists measured God's particles. I did feel goosebumps when I first saw the CMS and ATLAS detectors. They are the most impressive scientific instruments I will probably ever see. I myself was one of the watery-eyed tourists in awe after finishing my pilgrimage.

That said, I like airports, they are our cathedrals of trade. In airports, there is more clarity about the religious act. We need to buy a ticket in advance, we bring a hallowed QR code and our passports to show our allegiance to the church. We take out clothing items and show elements of trade such as cameras and computers to prove our value to the church. We throw away our water and other liquids and even empty our pockets before we are allowed to enter the Holy precincts. After we enter we are to spend countless hours buying overpriced items that we are told are cheap but just as in the case of pederastic priests we fail to use our common sense to realize our logic is at fault due to our religious bias.

Airports are great, and just as other cathedrals, they are some of the most sophisticated pieces of architecture in the world. Some take decades to complete as the (in)famous Berlin Brandenburg airport. But what I like the most about airports is that in contrast to other religions the people who go through the rituals of purification engage in travel, they meet different cultures and come to learn how different the world is from where they were born. This experience is central, I believe, to live in our century and one that we can experience only through travel. O.G. religious are known for their sectarianism incentivizing the destruction of neighboring towns (Sodom & Gomorra) and villages in the next valleys up to this day (Samaria & Palestine). The same is the case for commerce, science, and even sports. Only in airports can we come to revise our beliefs and in one form or another come to fix our tribal feelings.

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