On my recent trip to Europe I was reminded again of a concept I often wrestle with. What to hold on to, maintain, restore, and what to let go of?
We saw so many amazing buildings throughout Europe, as I know others have done. Many travellers comment about seeing too many castles, churches, fortifications and palaces. Some are just ruins, left as reminders of past times, or restored in part so tourists can see and experience some of the history and see the architecture. Some have been restored and are being used as hotels, youth hostels, guest houses. Some are maintained at enormous cost, and have mostly become tourist attractions. Money raised from visitors is used to repair and restore. The amount of gold, marble and art works in some of these is mind bending. Some beautiful churches are still used for worship, which was wonderful to see, even though so much of the church’s resources still goes towards maintaining the buildings and icons. Many palaces and other lavish buildings have become museums; housing extravagant artworks, statues and furnishings from past eras.
I was torn between admiring the beautiful artistic works and architecture, and being appalled at the extravagant expenditure, both originally and presently, to maintain some of these structures. No matter how beautiful, they spoke mostly of wealth and power, of times past and priorities which are questioned in today’s society. It was interesting to hear some of our fellow traveller’s discussing how the money used to maintain and restore these structures would be better used to care for the needy or simply to improve the utilities and services for the local communities.
So what to do? Let the buildings fall down? Strip out the useful elements and recycle? Turn them into more useful structures? Keep using a huge proportion of resources to maintain them and charge the tourists highly for the privilege of gaping. I’m sure there must be such discussions at local council meetings if not at higher government levels.
I was almost amused to come home and hear the news that there’s a campaign to save the Melbourne Palais Theatre which needs 32 million dollars spent on it. Is this an appreciation of Australian’s history? Or nostalgia? Or is this just more resistance to change and reluctance to let go of anything that links us to our past or represents our achievements?
These reflection took me to my own values. What in my life has become an icon of the past, but too costly, or no longer useful, or even safe? How am I maintaining my real treasures and do I regularly examine the relevance and importance of what I hold onto?I really love and appreciate history and what we can learn from it. I believe we need to remember, appreciate and learn from our own history. But I don’t believe we should be stuck in it, and I’m not sure we need to maintain expensive and extravagant representations of it, unless they serve a good purpose in the present.
Sometimes our finances dictate what we maintain in our lives or let go of. (Tourists wouldn’t pay to stroll through many parts of my life.) Our health and physical bodies will certainly shape what we can and cannot still do. My 25 k bike ride in Vienna was a reminder of that! I paid for it for days. Time can often regulate what we fit into our lives. Our best selves will be prayerful about what is still serving a Godly purpose, what is cluttering our homes, our minds, our relationships, our time. But in many instances we choose what possessions to hold on to, what kind of ‘palaces’ we really need, what practices to maintain, what attachments are important. Even what paragraphs or chapters to leave in our manuscripts!
Once we have created something, begun something, accumulated something, can we then let it go when it no longer relevant, or when it is not adding value, but rather taking up valuable space or time that something more appropriate and useful needs? Certainly our lives will need some restoration at times. Definitely some regular maintenance. But sometimes maybe what they need most is a really good edit!
Still thinking about all this. . .
Carol writes historical novels based on her family ancestry in Australia from the First Fleet. They include the Turning the Tide series; Mary’s Guardian, Charlotte’s Angel, Tangled Secrets and Truly Free. Her earlier novels, Suzannah’s Gold and Rebecca's Dream have been re-released by EBP. You can see more about Carol and her novels on her websitewww.carolpreston.com.au