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As way of introduction, a chapter of my background may serve to illuminate this series of articles.
I studied to be a sculptor of stone, and on leaving college, soon realised that a comfortable livelihood was not necessarily easy to attain. So I moved from job to job until I was hired as a trainee building conservator, mainly restoring and conserving ancient monuments, ruins and buildings deemed historically important. During my three years as a conservator I travelled around the countryside, often staying in one place for months on end.
I suppose I could be seen as an old-fashioned journeyman, and that was one of the benefits. It is always pleasant to soak up the feeling of a place, especially when your work is in the public eye. We would sometimes attain a fuller understanding of the object we were painstakingly repairing by talking to local people whose family originated in the area. This sometimes led to parts of a monument re-appearing after it had for years been 'borrowed' as a garden ornament.
Now when you have to sit on your rear day in day out patiently saving an ancient piece of architecture from the ruin of weather, acid rain and mindless vandalism of the bored teenage kind, senseless town planners, or both, it doesn't take long for even the most die-hard sceptic to start to wonder about its history.
Being slightly sceptical myself of the romantic historians who have an immense ability to 'talk' something into being a sacred reality, it is important to remind ourselves that we are only left with an impression of the past. We cannot view what remains of the past without colouring that view with our own present and past experiences. Having said that, fantasy has no master. In the repair or rebuilding of their work the practical and physical discovery of how people from the past used their materials has led me to feel as though I have had my hands in the past. This is in my experience the feeling of the sacred nature of things man made.
I suppose that the root of our being, a genetic part of our heritage as dwelling builders leads me to believe that we all possess a greater understanding of our structural needs than we might have realised. How many times have you seen a building and responded to it, do you know why? Can you analyse that feeling? Could this be the reason for the success of DIY superstores, capitalising on our basic urges. However, the spell of the emotional response, with a deep connection moved me whilst thinking about the shear physical achievement that has preceded us.
Perhaps we are letting ourselves down by not allowing our internal response to our environment guide us in our choice of structure in our present. This then may lead us on a path of discovery, on which we may take ourselves through a dawn of consciousness to arrive at a new spiritual and sacred space, where we will all feel at home. .
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