“We who cut mere stones must always be envisioning cathedrals.”
The line above is the “Quarry Worker's Creed,” as seen in Cal Newport's Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World (p. 89). Newport explains that he first saw this line as an epigraph to The Pragmatic Programmer, a book that also has strong connections to our work as educators.
From the introduction of The Pragmatic Programmer:
What distinguishes Pragmatic Programmers? We feel it's an attitude, a style, a philosophy of approaching problems and their solutions. They think beyond the immediate problem, always trying to place it in its larger context, always trying to be aware of the bigger picture. After all, without this larger context, how can you be pragmatic? How can you make intelligent compromises and informed decisions?
Could there be words more directly targeting the hearts and minds of teachers who aspire toward wisdom, like you and I do? The wise teacher, too, can only adopt this big picture approach to their work.
Ours is work that constantly demands intelligent compromise. Otherwise, there are simply too many things to do in the time we have. We have to decide where to excel, where to merely pass muster, and where to disappear.
And why? Because we're building cathedrals, you and me. One brick at a time. And just as the quarry worker is humble enough to expect no credit, so too must we work.
Having contributed to cathedrals is well reward enough.