“There may be more beautiful times, but this one is ours.” — Jean-Paul Sartre
On visiting London’s only existential tourist attraction, I found myself travelling up kaleidoscopic lifts to the clouds. Like all religious temples, the view from the Shard is a bold attempt to get closer to God. A post-modern cathedral with a celestial soundtrack, the sky is now empty but that doesn’t stop us trying. Illusions are everywhere you look and not just in the clouds. Unfortunately the future does not exist, and it requires dreams to become a reality. And before we forget, just think how beautiful it is to be living together on this melancholy rock for no apparent reason.
So the city lights are switched on (one-by-one) and will continue to do so in your absence; twinkling from the street lights, office towers and financial powerhouses of modern London. A constant flicker we all take for granted. Unwittingly you stare upon the grafted lines of Victorian rust carrying trains down to Brighton. Arriving like soft white caterpillars they remind me of boarding a DLR train late at night in Canary Wharf, something entirely run by machines, where even holding a loved one’s hand you feel nothing but disenchantment.
Meanwhile kids play football in brightly lit fields in Elephant and Castle and passengers congregate on lonely platforms at London Bridge. Separate worlds oblivious to who might be watching. For the evening spectacle is wonderful, especially the ancient serpent of the Thames, which loops and meanders like never before. A beautiful geographical loop sparkling with cruise ships that move underneath the lemon rind of the moon.
Cities are young places full of vitality and will take your innocence away. Moved not so much by calculation as suggestion, it‘s a feeling you will never want to lose. While the daily to-ing and fro-ing can feel crushingly banal at times, this beautiful electronic grid is charged full of dreams and illusions. For the Shard is a testament to human ambition and it’s a miracle such a place even exists. One day none of this will matter and you’ll regret it when it does. Remember you don’t have much time. So climb up this glass mountain and behold a vision of a borrowed future.