I regret that I’m two weeks too late to notify of the full event, but I wanted to give the heads up to you who have already moved to London (or are perhaps visiting right now) that tonight is the third in a series of debates being held at St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Though I haven’t attended one of this year’s series yet, I’m very nostalgic for this October event, as it was one of the first things that gave me a sense of purpose after moving this same time of year two years ago. No job, no home, and a lot of aimless wandering and getting lost, but my discovery of these debates was something that gave me a schedule, a bit of structure, and an immeasurable amount of self-reflection and peace. That year, the debates focused on Science & Religion, and though labeled a “debate,” I think it if anything demonstrated that the two can coexist harmoniously; it doesn’t need to be one or the other, and if one doesn’t believe in both, there are ways to respectfully agree to disagree. The panel was comprised of atheists, agnostics, and theologians alike who discussed topics such as the nature of the soul in relation to the body, evolution, and the Big Bang. I’d made three of four talks and can attest that it is the most serene, profound ways one can spend a couple hours in central London, and for free. Even if there wasn’t an admission fee to the cathedral by day, I would always prefer it by night like this. There’s a golden quiet to it that strips away the tourism (another way to experience St. Paul’s similar to this is to attend their regular evensong services).
Last year’s focus was generally what constitutes “success” in life, and this year’s has been pursuing the big topics: Suffering, Love, Death, and Happiness, in that order. Tonight’s topic regards what it means “to live in the knowledge of our own death,” and next week will close the series in exploring what “happiness means and where it can be found.” The debates are on Tuesday evenings, beginning at 6:00pm (getting there beforehand is recommended to ensure a good seat) and ending at 8:00pm. Each topic is also supplemented with a meditative service on the Sunday following its respective debate; these services likewise begin at 6:00pm and are free to the public.
If you’re relocating to London, there’s little doubt that the move will constitute an upheaval to some extent. Moving far away from home and loved ones and possibly starting on a new career or education track is a turning point in our lives that gives us pause to reflect on who we are and what we want out of life. My own relocation without question prompted me to think of all of the above topics…you learn that life can surprise you at every turn and that time will keep ticking away at increasing speed…you learn what you’re made of and reevaluate your goals and purpose accordingly…and you learn to take nothing for granted. So when the stress of moving overseas and getting settled into a new London flat, a new job, a new school, etc. is said and done, be sure to schedule some quiet time in your life to listen to yourself. If you’re in town already, you might begin this by attending one of these remaining debates beneath the gaze of the marvelous dome of St. Paul’s.