Watching the two second demolition of a Glasgow tower block, as it succumbed to the inevitability of its controlled explosive execution, carried far more emotion than I would have expected. A woman talking after the event reminded me that this was not for her, just an eyesore, or a pile of concrete cancer slowly decaying, it was a valuable part of her life.
People she knew and loved had lived in this stack of flats, piled one on top of the other in a mid-20th century attempt to provide accommodation at a time when the nation was bankrupt and there was no money for quality housing. Within this high-rise concrete theatre, their stories entangled and threaded together making up an essential section of the fabric of time and space in this place. The woman had lived there too with her parents who no longer live in this world, and all had worked together to create a unique energy that represented a path from which she, and others, had come. It was the source of her story. For her, as the building gave itself up, the memories stored within the crumbling walls were released in a two second blast that shocked her – and it is no surprise.
Monuments, gravestones, buildings… all represent the past. Old friends, old deeds and old actions we do not want to forget are tied up ‘forever’ in a form we believe holds permanence. It gives us a sense of security – of knowing what went before. Like anchors into the past we cherish the tug they give us when life rocks the boat. We think we are safe having these ties to what has gone before.
But is this true? Ties restrict. Ties bind. Ties are in direct opposition to freedom. Ties may feel like a safety net, but they are also what keeps us in chains. What we think of as a permanence really carries no guarantees at all… nothing in this world is forever. We may not want to believe it, but what we lash ourselves to is already changing, already falling away – everything is moving into and out of form in a constant dance, and if we are not free to join this dance we suffer and shuffle about instead, held back by the weight of memories of a past that no longer exists.
Better to let it go. Say goodbye and move on. Holding on to old things means regret, resentment, sadness, melancholy, wistfulness, even anger. There is nothing to be gained from living in the past.
With the falling of the tower block and the release of all the energy, perhaps the woman from Glasgow will find her life a little lighter now, perhaps she will dance a little more too – who knows?