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Language: English / Gàidhlig


Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Meeting of the Parliament 06 June 2017

Agenda: Time for Reflection, Topical Question Time, Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, Decision Time, Green Deal (Consumer Protection)


Time for Reflection

Good afternoon. Our first item of business today is time for reflection. Our time for reflection leader is Brian Hawkins, a celebrant for the Humanist Society Scotland.

Mr Presiding Officer, ladies and gentlemen, I am sure that, following the terror attack in London, we all share the same emotional response, ranging from anger and perhaps hatred all the way through to profound sorrow and devastation. We are also perhaps a little bit confused as to our personal response to it.

We believe that the death of any human being impacts on us all, and therefore we sometimes find it difficult to come to terms with the deaths of people who, until a few days ago, were strangers. Sometimes, we must look to the death of someone close to us to find an appropriate response in those circumstances.

Last year, I lost first my mother-in-law and then my mother. My wife Wendy and I had to clear two houses. It was in the glory hole of my mother’s 60-year-old attic that I discovered the old stereo system that I had played in my teens. It was a stereo system from the days when speakers were bits of furniture that had to be wired, amplifiers got hot and turntables were designed with all the precision of a renaissance astrolabe. I decided, of course—maybe as part of the grieving process—to fix it and get it to work again.

I then had a dilemma: what records, what music am I going to play? All of my music catalogue is on my phone. How am I going to choose which music to listen to in an archaic vinyl format? To be honest, I have still not solved thE problem, but I knew what the first album I was going to buy would be, in memory of my hero and contemporary David Bowie: his album “Black Star”.

“Black Star” is undoubtedly a work of genius, but it is also melancholy and sad because it is so obvious that Bowie knew that he was dying when he wrote and recorded it. Those of us who live without a god and who do not believe in the afterlife pass this way only once. Therefore, it is important that we decide what is important in the lives that we lead. That leaves us with a choice—our life is full of choices. We can choose, on the one hand, to be a critic, or we can choose to grab the opportunity of our own “Black Star” moments: those moments of intimacy when we can inspire and encourage other human beings.

I know that, to some extent, I am preaching to the converted, as you all entered public life to serve the people of your community and country. However, I challenge you just a little and ask you: what have you done today to make someone else’s life better?

In the heat of an election, faced by a calamity like the London attack, it is very easy to forget our humanity and not to spend that moment with another human being, encouraging them to be better, to be themselves and to stand up for what they believe in. Please be encouragers.

I leave you with a quote from the great Terry Pratchett, author and humanist, who died in 2015. He said:

“it is said that your life flashes before your eyes just before you die”—

and that is absolutely right; it does—

“It’s called Life.”

I was Brian Hawkins of the Humanist Society Scotland. I thank you for your time.