The dimensions of loss are real and many
Buildings project personalities – whether it be that of Shah Jahan for the Taj Mahal, Michelangelo for St Peter’s in Rome or Joseph Stalin in Moscow. Buildings also incarnate ideas, fears, hopes and dreams.
When the flames of destruction touched the Rennie Mackintosh building, it unleashed a powerful destructive force in Garnethill; but it also unlocked a complex ripple of emotions, both locally and across the globe, because the building projects a personality; it was not just an assembly of wood and stone, but it too was a building which incarnated ideas, fears, hopes and dreams.
This hour marks the time last Friday, 15th June 2018, when a patrolling policeman first spotted the flames at 11.15pm in the Glasgow School of Art. Because of the swift movement of the emergency services, we can give thanks tonight that not one life was lost.
And yet… and yet… Loss there has been, and the dimensions of that loss are real and many:
• There are people now in Garnethill who are displaced from their homes and are living with a day-to-day uncertainty.
• Workers in The Glasgow School of Art, the Campus Bar and the O2 are now without a job and livelihood, and they and their families have suddenly lost an anchor in a stormy economic climate.
• Proud Glaswegians have lost a familiar landmark and a tap-root into the history of the city.
• Architects, students, art lovers and those that appreciate beauty across the world realise that something important has vanished from our reality.
There has been (and will be) much talk and many discussions, arguments and plans over what took place and what is to come; but tonight we are here just to gather our thoughts, to remember and reflect in a structured silence.
W.B. Yeats, the Irish poet, described the 1916 Easter Rising in these words:
“All changed, changed utterly; a terrible beauty is born.”
Before us stands a single burning candle; it is an ambiguous sign – a ‘terrible beauty’ – because it is both a reminder of the destruction that has marked this city in recent months; and yet harnessed fire is a foundation of human evolution; and the symbol of fire for human beings is one of cleansing, inspiration and hope. Harnessed fire will itself play its part in the re-creation of what has been lost. The lone candle holds all these ambiguities in its simplicity.
St Aloysius is a house of prayer and worship in the Catholic Christian tradition, but tonight under this one roof we gather people of different faiths and people who have no religious affiliation. We come together as sisters and brothers to pray or meditate on what has come to pass and where we might be going; in so doing we make present our sympathy and solidarity.