Friday, April 26, 2013

may these memories break our fall

During the blitzkrieg, firefighters had to choose whether to save this hall or the House of Commons. 
History rests in the hands of firefighters. 

Yesterday was my half birthday.
And I thought of the six months since my birthday and how much older I had grown. 
Which sounds childish, perhaps.
But despite feeling sophisticated, as I wander through London, drinking wine by the Themes, and soaking in the smells and sights of a spring sunset on Waterloo Bridge, I am still a child.
And, like a child, I feel myself growing exponentially older by the second.

I walked into Westminster Hall, the oldest building in the Parliamentary Palace, and felt what true age meant.



This was the hall where Charles I was condemned and where Sir Thomas More was tried. This room.
Right there.
In 1097, William, the son of William the Conquerer, built the hall.
His father conquered England, and I guess William II had to do something to try to equal his father.
I pity the lad; there isn't an easy follow-up act to Conquering England.
(And just imagine how stellar "Recent Conquests: England" would look on a CV.
Talk about resumé-padding.)

As you walk through a building as old as Westminster Hall, the weight of time becomes as palpable as the weight of King's College fan vault.
As you look up at the wooden rafters or the delicate stone fans, crafted out of stony lace, you feel the weight of the stories those stones could tell pressing down on you.
Your own story, of thirty years or six months, or six days, begins to take on the weight of the thousands of years of stories you find seeping up from the stones.

People talk about "finding their roots" or "getting in touch with my roots" or "revisiting the homeland" or something of those natures. I'm never quite sure what they mean (and to be honest, I usually would roll my eyes at over-emotional declarations of transcendental experiences of the past), but I think revisiting a place is perhaps the most spiritual of exercises.
Our surroundings, of course, shape our stories. 
And our stories shape our surroundings. 

I don't think the stones of Westminster Hall have remained unchanged since Thomas More declared within their earshot: 
"And if this oath of yours, Master Rich, be true, then pray I that I may never see God in the face, which I would not say, were it otherwise to win the whole world."
Were it otherwise to win the the whole world.
Those words can prick tears from otherwise stony eyes.
And tears really cannot be made of such different stuff from stone.
If words have the power to make hearts skip a beat and make blood rush faster through veins, do they not also leave their marks on the stones that soak up their echoes?

And as you enter the room where great men and great women have spoken great words, your ears are tickled with the infinitesimally quiet whispers of the great echoes they have left.

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