Saturday, 29 December 2012

Building St Paul's Cathedral

One day during it's construction, Sir Christopher Wren was walking around St Paul's Cathedral. He stopped to speak to a stonemason and asked him what he was doing. In a rather matter of fact way he said, 'Oh, I'm just craving this stone'. Later, Wren stopped again. This time it was to speak to a carpenter. He asked him what he was doing. He too answered in a rather matter of fact sort of way saying, 'Oh, I'm just carving this piece of wood'. Still later Wren stopped to speak to a young boy who was sweeping the floor. Wren asked him what he was doing. 'I'm helping Sir Christopher Wren build St Paul's Cathedral', he said enthusiastically.

This is somewhat reminiscent of one of the Apollo astronauts I once heard interviewed. He said that he didn't know how it 'all worked' but that he knew his role and that it wasn't all going to be messed up on his account. Perhaps the whole of life is like that and that the whole edifice is affected by even the most humble of contributors. Rather like the butterfly effect perhaps but with real people rather than the inanimate objects with which we usually associate that effect.

It is always said that Sir Christopher Wren built St Paul's Cathedral but what does 'built' really mean? He did no carving so far as I know and I'm sure he did no sweeping. I remember seeing a television programme about the redevelopment of St Pancras railway station - a station I often used to walk through on the way home when I was a boy. When the station had its official reopening, I was surprised to see that at the ceremony the man who had had all the hard work of organising the day-to-day work was seated downstairs, somewhat out of the way of the proceedings, whereas the people who had drawn the plans were seated upstairs with all the dignitaries.