Posted by: owizblog | July 18, 2016

Nice: I Simply Have No Words… Thought For The Day, BBC Radio Scotland, 18 July 2017

Seventy-one years ago this month, the first ever atomic bomb exploded. Ralph Vaughan Williams always denied it, but from its first performance in 1948, audiences understood his Sixth Symphony as a shattering vision of a world destroyed by nuclear war.

Unrelated keys smash together; snatches of melody like fragments of meaning, a soaring theme is overcome by a mindless, militaristic rhythm, there’s violent disintegration and collapse – then the finale, a slow fugue, nowhere louder than pianissimo, evokes the utter, sterile deadness of a world that has destroyed itself.

At one of its first performances, as the music tailed off into dead silence, for many seconds no-one could make a sound, and applause was impossible. In that unearthly pause, one audience member recalls to his astonishment seeing a woman snap open her compact, and start to powder her face. The audience had been shown the end of the world. It was more than she could look at.

Confronted with the unimaginably horrific, we seek the mundane. We turn away, change the subject, fall back on our habits, platitudes, prejudices, preconceptions, to try to make familiar again a world made strange – or gone mad.

So I’d rather be talking to you this morning about anything other than the horrible events in Nice. Above all, I wish that they hadn’t happened, but in truth, I don’t know what to say about them. How anyone could bring himself to drive a twenty tonne lorry along a thronged, happy promenade, swerving to hit people, children, he had in full sight from his window… The urge not to look at it this morning was almost overwhelming. Yet I dare not look away, just because I don’t know what to say.

At the heart of Christian faith is the cross. It’s seen as many, many things, but before all else, it’s the point of intersection of God’s love, and the way the world really is. That’s where God is. I have no words, just sorrow, and compassion for all those whose lives have been devastated in Nice. Perhaps, for now, that’s enough…


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