Responses to the Notre Dame fire

Immediately after the tragic fire at the Cathedral of Notre Dame I asked folks on Facebook to tell how it affected them emotionally, especially in comparison to the very similar visual experience of seeing the twin towers fall.  Most people disregarded the twin towers parallel and went right to the heart of their feelings about the event itself and our collective response to the loss.  I encourage you to find the Facebook feed if you want to see the many cogent responses.  But this morning I wrote a response to those responses which I thought I would share.  Here it is:

Thanks so much for taking the time to share your thoughts on the fire at Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. The answers seemed to separate themselves into four main points of view:
1. It is unseemly that people should be feeling such horror and outrage at the burning of an old European pile of wood and stones while we express no concern about the children dying in droughts across Africa, and black churches in the American south are burnt down with impunity.
2. The universe is making a statement, or, at least, offering us a metaphor about either the Catholic church, patriarchal religion in general, or the old order of human affairs. Somehow this was a message of retribution or about the necessity of change.
3. Great tears are shed for the destruction of a Euro-Christian sacred space, yet none are shed for the destruction and despoliation of the sacred land and spaces of indigenous people.
4. This is a tragic blow to the heart of the human impulse toward beauty and imaginative vision. There are moments when civilization coalesces into a physical form that stands as a monument to who we are and what we can achieve, and when these are lost we all are the poorer.
What fascinated me is how many more responses looked at the event through an ecological or sociological lens than through an aesthetic lens. This is understandable, and perhaps a legitimate corrective, given the way our world is operating these days. But there are some dark drumbeats in the distance when, for any reason, we fail to honor the beauty of our most visionary human creations because we do not like what they represent.

10 thoughts on “Responses to the Notre Dame fire”

  1. Mara K Laverentz

    What an incredible closing sentence. You have, yet again, taken my breath with your deeply profound observations.

  2. This is interesting. As a metaphor, the burning of the most recognizable Catholic church on Earth seems to show the forces of the unseen are notnpleased with the state of that religion, especially considering the timing of the event, the opening day of Holy week. The Catholic church is on fire from within, because so many of its policies have been responsible for so much misery and death in the world.
    (The Spanish Requirement of 1513 (Requerimiento) was a declaration by the Spanish monarchy, written by the Council of Castile jurist Juan López de Palacios Rubios, of Castile’s divinely ordained right to take possession of the territories of the New World and to subjugate, exploit and, when necessary, to fight the native inhabitants.
    The Requerimiento (Spanish for “requirement” as in “demand”) was read to Native Americans to inform them of Spain’s rights to conquest. The Spaniards thus considered those who resisted as defying God’s plan, and so used Catholic theology to justify their conquest)
    Adding onto that, the ongoing abuse of children by priests, the church has much to answer for.
    The cathedral will be rebuilt, the outpouring of money to do so is huge. But the metaphoric statement made is one the church should listen to, and think about long and hard.
    There are many within the church that have been appealing to the Pope to remove the Requerimiento from the books, but that has yet to be done.
    Sadly, so many of the institutions of old are having to come to grips with their deeds, hopefully as a species, we all grow out of the need for such institutions to even exist.

  3. As a historian I am always amazed that anything old survives given the wars and moods of our species. Cathedrals were built as civic as well as religious spaces, and function over centuries as a communal space for different facets of identity, which were seen in the nationalist as much as catholic response. Perhaps another way to mourn it along with other ongoing ecological and racial tragedies is to recognize this as communal at heart, and to learn to extend our grief as global citizens.

  4. I feel sad when ever something of beauty that is also part of our history is destroyed, however I.m also grateful no one was killed. I live in a town of about 50k and there are around 16k homeless teens and over 30k adults. Now that is something to cry tears over and donate our time and money too. Little children that get maybe one meal a day and don’t even have costs in winter. So may of these children are illegals and can’t enroll in the government food program because they will deport the family. If all that isn’t bad enough there are 15 native Americans pueblos in my county and their living conditions are even worse. I’m sorry that I feel this is just a building and money that it will take to rebuild it could help so may impoverished people. My vote and dollars go to help people not rebuild buildings

  5. It is obvious that many people are emotionally devastated by the fire that engulfed Notre Dame. I suspect that there’s much we’ll not be told about the cause. Unlike 911, where over 1 million tons of construction debris somehow vaporized (see Where Did The Towers Go by Dr. Judy Wood- Materials Engineer), the ND catastrophe seemed to be in slow motion. The steeple collapse (steeples symbolize space rockets?) was especially dramatic. More to come will shock and confuse the world but I have to agree that the endemic molestation of children and nuns hardly allows the Catholic Church to harbor any sort of religious superiority (nor real contrition). I recommend reading, Flying Serpents and Dragons, The Story of Mankind’s Reptilian Past by R.A. Boulay. Even more sobering, read Under An Ionized Sky, From Chemtrails to Space Fence Lockdown by Elana Freeland.

  6. I agree with Peggy. It actually made me mad to see 1 billion dollars donated to rebuild an old church when France is in desperate need themselves. Children are going to bed hungry just like here. For shame on the rich for not helping the poor.

  7. Lynn Gallagher

    I lean towards being a bit on the sad and disappointed side of the discussion. Yes, it is heartbreaking to see a structure of such magnitude be destroyed. Yet, isn’t a human being such a magnificent creature. I feel the balance of things is off. People are starving, our land is being destroyed, as well as our lake, oceans and streams. Where is the outrage, and willingness to get involved and help is these areas? I have no answers, only an observation and concern.

  8. In going through these comments I am pleased to see how many of the readers of this post are looking at the bigger picture, at the fact that people mourn the loss of the old, historic structure which will take millions to rebuild when most realize that what matters is the harm that is being done daily to our planet and to our people living in the present times. I, too, feel it is the universe’s way of “waking us up”. In reality, although Notre Dame is a profound piece of our history, in reality, it is just a building. When we care for all people and the Earth we are enlightening our soul. It is not what is outside that matters, it is what we restore in our spirits that counts.

  9. My first post did not take so I am trying again. I thoroughly agree with most of the comments and am happy to see that the readers see beyond a building that has been revered for so long and to a bigger picture. The planet, people and animals come first. A building is just a building. Art is beautiful but we will always have artists and writers to create our thoughts and emotions. We need to invest in and take care of the present and the future, not a relic of the past. Thank you, PapaBear for mentioning the books in your comment. I have just finished reading “Bringers of the Dawn” which is so revealing and answers so many questions about our planet.

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