Last week, my friend Lydia turned 18. It's been a long time coming - 18 years, to be precise; but about seven months since my own 18th, to be less facetious. To celebrate, her parents paid for her and six of her friends to see the view from The Shard, the 306-metre London eyesore which is has earned the title of The Tallest Building in Europe.
The thing about being in strange places is that I find it crystallises my thought process. Things become a lot more insignificant when you're somewhere different, somewhere which stands as a testament to the creativity and doggedness of the human spirit.
These are my thoughts from the top of The Shard...
- Tall buildings are the most phallic of all phallic symbols. It's the evolution of the who-has-the-biggest-club competition from caveman times. What better way to overcompensate for your fragile manhood than constructing a 1000-foot skyscraper to sell as ludicrously expensive penthouse flats?
- Imagine living in one of those flats on the 40th floor and having the lifts broken. Imagine walking down forty flights of stairs to the ground floor, only to realise you've left your stuff. Like, "aww, man, I can't believe I left my gym membership card back in my room, I gotta go walk up another forty flights of stairs to get it back?! Fuck that, just walking back up stairs counts as exercise for the day."
- If we're on the highest floor you can be, and it's floor 72, then what's above us? What happens if I look up?
- How much time in the whole of human history has been spent looking up? Staring at building, staring at the stars, just staring at the world?
- How much history can I see just by looking out across the city? It's a big sprawling metropolis. Civilisation. Humanity's greatest achievement is just learning to live together, how to navigate the changes from village to town to city to concrete forest. And rolling through the middle is The Thames, which made it all possible. Look, it's St Paul's. How many times has that been rebuilt? Props to us, humans. We're really good at rebuilding things. But how much history have we lost through this progress?
- Is progress worth paying the price of losing the past? Does tradition really matter that much?
- God damn, my feet hurt.
- It's really windy up here. I'm glad I'm not wearing a hat. I'd be pissed if I went to The Shard and lost my hat.
- But where would the hat go? It might get blown the whole way out over London. It might land at the feet of any of the tiny people I can see walking around, going between the tiny buildings and getting in their tiny cars and tiny trains, living their huge lives. And my hat would just be a tiny thing to happen in their day.
- I am that tiny person. You are that tiny person. We're all so, so tiny. We're the centre of our own universes, but when you look at us from that far away, we are all so small. All our worries seem really big, but they are so small too. They will not subsume the whole universe - only our own. And that's tiny. And everyone else has their own universe full of their own tiny worries. We have no sense of perspective.
- We spend too much time in our own heads.
We're all just people, doing the best we can, and sometimes we get too wrapped up to really look at what's going on around us. How much amazing stuff do we miss every day just because we don't take the time to stop and stare? How much did I not notice because I was too busy inside stressing the little things, worrying about texting and tweeting and technology?
Sometimes all we need to do is look around and enjoy the view.