15 Sep 2023

Every time we go to London, we do a thing. One thing, because there are so many that you run the risk of running yourself ragged. So when we’re in the Big Smoke for business, we add a single visit or event to the calendar. We recently went for some paperwork – and took a trip to the Museum of Natural History.

Sure – the Museum. I can wax lyrically, and there is much to see, and it’s worth the visit, and its impressive, and informative, and mind-blowing, and all that fine stuff…

What struck me most, however, was the exterior of the building.

There are places I’ve lived that would consider their greatest national treasure the façade of this building – if only they had the vision to construct it, the will to maintain it, and the discipline to resource it. But they never did.

Understand that the important stuff – the attraction – the value – resides within.

But those who offered this value to society – not their own families but broader humanity (what a rare impulse that is – does that still exist anywhere in the world? Nowhere I’ve looked, for darn sure) – understood the importance, the social function and the imperative of beauty. They considered creating pretty things to be incumbent on those who would inflict their creations on others. Not just rapid, cost-saving, Chinese manufactured, cookie cutter exercises in speed and banality.

But beauty. Hard-won, for its own sake.

Like many places in London the building makes you stop – and like a scene of natural beauty – it has the power to make you consider yourself in relation to the rest of the world. In history, in the sweeping saga of time and the vast expanse of space – the building makes you feel small, and therefore puts you in proper perspective.

Buildings like this are not built anymore. Not because style has changed, but because style has been abandoned altogether. For allegedly egalitarian considerations, for lazy efficiency, for do-the-minimum mediocrity, for the cynicism that believes everything that can be done has been done, and for the arrogance that asserts there is nothing divine and nothing mysterious left in the world.

Art – in all of its forms – seems to have been reduced to mere vanity – done for the purpose of self-expression. If it is even attempted at all.

I stand in awe – and I bask in wonder. And understanding my proper place, in an instant, I get to believe in God again, and I remember what it’s like to be human.