This topic's been on my mind for a while. Coherent ramble in 3...2...
I respect this guys devotion.
I find his dedication admirable, enviable even - but in the end I wonder if it is a hollow kind of dedication. There's this great article on De Correspondent (so it's in Dutch, sadly) that I keep coming back to every once in a while. Usually I reread it when I have a moment of doubt regarding my own goals, devotion and ambitions.
In it, the author talks about the ambition that is so dominant in the life of Andrew in Whiplash and to an extent in our lives and society. It is the unbridled, self-destructing, total dedication that his instructor demands of him and that he eventually delivers on. While the movie shows what kind of double-edged sword that level of dedication can be—Andrew breaks up with his girlfriend and drums until he bleeds—his ambition is admired and envied by many.
I too felt that envy while watching Whiplash and I feel it too while watching this man build a cathedral to death. I know other students around me aspire to that level of dedication too. Whenever I am bored for too many evenings in a row I immediately want to fill that time with work, with sports, with being productive. When I did an architecture course, the people in my group would often work on projects and study until 4-5am and be in class 8:45. I had a lengthy discussion about the 'pressure to perform' with other honorary students where many bright, ambitious peers confessed that they hated working this hard but felt the need to regardless. Because it was expected of them, because 'you gotta work hard to get ahead', because they didn't know what else to do.
The author argues that Andrew's dedication is not just a bad idea because he is ruining himself but that it's completely meaningless. Never does the movie explain why he is so into drumming. The movie could've been about competitive basket weaving and people would still marvel at his level of dedication. We've come to find ambition and devotion more important than the things that drive us to devotion: interest, or fun, or fulfillment. Some of the honorary students worked their asses off but couldn't answer the why question - all they were focused on was the next todo, the next exam, the next career. They were focused on working hard without ever stopping to reflect on where all that work would take them to.
So I wonder whether the same goes for the cathedral man. The video doesn't give much reasons but I wonder what kept him going so long.