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Compromise....

The quire at Salisbury Cathedral
Posted By : Martin Field Thursday 22nd May 2014

Compromise.  To meet each other half way.  To come to terms. To strike a balance....

You can see evidence of compromise all round the Cathedral .  When they added the spire about 50 years after they finished the rest of the building they filled in windows, added extra stone, and constructed an iron band to strengthen the tower.  Even so, the massive stone pillars that had been built to support the modest tower, bent under all the additional weight.

Compromise – still evident in the life of the Cathedral today as it seeks to meet the needs all those who come.

The other day we were talking about how we should commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of war on August 4th 1914: the catastrophic failure of politicians to find a compromise for which 16 million young men and women then paid the ultimate price.  A salutary occasion that the Cathedral would wish to mark with dignity and solemnity, offering an opportunity to pause, reflect and pray.

But it’s also a busy Monday in August – when 2,000 visitors from all over the world will come here to visit the world’s finest medieval cathedral – many of them oblivious of the significance of the date.  A discussion ensued.  How could we meet the very different needs and aspirations of the range of visitors on that particular day?  Would the bustle intrude on the silence?  And how would people who had travelled half way round the world to visit the Cathedral on that particular day feel if certain areas were closed?

The thing about a true compromise – is that neither party gets exactly what they thought they wanted at the start.  Each gives some ground; together something new is created.  To the purist – it’s capitulation, giving in, surrendering previously hard fought ground.  But maybe, just maybe, the solution might be better for both parties, than that originally proposed by either side.

Perhaps those who come to the Cathedral as tourists on August the 4th will be unexpectedly reminded of the significance and solemnity of the day; perhaps those who come for solitude, prayer and reflection will set their thoughts in the context of today’s busy, bustling and indifferent world – not unlike a world of 1914 that stumbled unknowingly into such a calamitous war.

Compromise – finding agreement through communication.  Do we have the courage to let go of things that we have hitherto held dear?  And if we don’t – if we can’t find compromise in the minutiae our daily lives – then we stand condemned along with our political forbears.  We and those close to us will pay the price.  But if we do – the seemingly incompatible and intractable can burgeon into something fresh and new.  But – and here’s the difficult bit – you have to give up something first before you can be free to discover that.

Martin Field