The Dominion Of The Dead: Communion & Its Effects On Architecture

How do the living maintain relations with the dead?  What is at stake when we engage in either personal or social communion?  Do only poets recognize the continuing influence of the dead?

Human institutions are founded on places sacred to the memory of charged antecedents.  This has profound moral, ethical, social and political consequences for those mindful enough to contain themselves throughout our mundane engagements.

We are asking some heroic theological questions in need of form.  If cultural memory has a place, a future in American life then the felt immanence of a housed transcendent Lord is needed as a historical postulate.

The quickened pace of modern life is eroding our sense of receptivity to grace.  Our sense of place, the substance of our identities can be misplaced or lost all together in our race to fulfill ourselves.

Architecture is the shelter for living memory, and menageries are the sacraments of lost time.  They stand in for others as sentries.

Grief is the prime example of our shared continuity; the seismic response of being deprived is indispensable for growth.  Such encounters require space.  Men vent great passions in either breaking out into song or quiet repose that reforms youthful ideals.  But the quest for meaning first gets underway from the grieving self’s anguished longing.  This is the primordial mode of all poetic creation.

The mutual indebtedness of family, friends and lovers helps us know ourselves; form our lives, organize our social relations and restrain our passions.  It is the influence of the past which determines our recognitions, aspirations and expressions.  George Steiner was right “it is not the literal past that rules us, save possibly in a biological sense.  It is images of the past.  These are often highly structured and selected personal encounters.  Images and charged constructs of the past are imprinted, almost in the manner of genetic information, on our sensibility.  Each person mirrors an active mythology of its past or of a past borrowed from another.  It tests yet forms our identity, of regress or new achievement, against the past, whether acknowledged or imagined.  The echos by which a person seeks self determination; the reach, the logic and authority of its own voice come from the rear.  We ought never fear a simple powerful truth:  a necessary past tense to the grammar of being human is created by emotional fiat.”

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About William Holland

Systematic Theologian/International Relations
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