14 06 07, walkingtalkingwriting, EXETER
We set off in a particular direction.
– “Sometimes a ride on the city’s public transport system is more instructive than a voyage to distant lands. Experienced travellers will confirm that it is sufficient to see a single lilac shrub in a dusty city courtyard to understand the deep sadness of all the hidden lilac trees anywhere in the world.”
- “Which is why I return from a ride on the city’s public transport system full of many sad and beautiful impressions, and when I navigate a little bit of the city, I feel as proud as if I had circumnavigated the globe. If I imagine the courtyards a little more gloomy, their lilac trees a little scrawnier, and the walls a couple of yards higher and the children a shade or two paler – then it’s though I’ve been to New York, having sampled the bitterness of the metropolis, because most major discoveries can be made very locally, either at home or a few streets away. Phenomena and atmosphere and experiences differ not in their essence, but in secondary qualities like scale.” [from Joseph Roth, The Ride Past the Houses, (1922)]
Salvation comes from walking in a particular direction. Or so we are lead to believe. But what actually happened? Eyewitnesses were able to be found to testify that the two of them simply walked off, and disappeared. Never to be seen again so far as they were concerned at the time. The truth is that everything about them was quickly forgotten so that when anybody was later asked to remember, it becomes an exercise of the imagination, unreliable recollections, a series of vague impressions. Not to be trusted.
From out of one of the testimonies– ‘One of them said, “Let’s go to the city cathedral”, and then they walked off’. These were some actual written down words, the sort of thing that can become an official version. However, if statements were available from any of the grey uniformed attendants at the cathedral on the day, and who is to know if they are or ever have been interviewed in this way, it was unlikely any memory of a visit would come to mind from among any of them.
- “It was a quiet day”, one of them reported. – “The afternoons are often quiet, and we don’t get a lot of visitors”. Even the most skilled questioning was not going to uncover more. The attendants were standing inside the automatic glass entrance doors at the east end of the cathedral. The few visitors were entering in ones and twos, often stopping to look at the great empty space flanked by the stone columns rising up to the vaulted roof far above them before moving on. It did not appear to be about salvation. It seemed to be about something else, an almost accidental motivation.
A young girl with curly fair hair was running in front of her father. The glass entrance doors swung silently open, and she ran on ahead and into the cathedral. Her father quickened his step to follow her in, as two men walked past him and out into the open air, slipping past the sign by the glass doors that said ‘No Exit’.
But because silence is unacceptable, under the pressure of extreme interrogation, or through a desire for fame, or the necessity to avoid blame, or a cunning to place it squarely on another’s shoulders, or the worry over a threat of excommunication – salvation being an important business – or a general anxiety about damnation, remembering. Confession. Remembering what it was we were doing and saying at the time, putting the words into our mouths – “Let’s go”, I said, and so on. And then explaining the situation that afterwards generally speaking nothing happens. Resistance. They don’t move.
It isn’t the cathedral in the City of Glass, the New York city cathedral. So for all anybody knows we never made it. This is our salvation.