With The Smoke And Ash: A Few Thoughts On The Burning Of Notre Dame

>> The venerable church stood as the Black Death raged, the anti-religious terror of the French Revolution exploded, the crowds of the Paris Commune rioted, and two world wars rained violence. But it is the incompetence and carelessness of poor renovation that did the damage.

>>It’s been a tough year for France. A vital organ has been bruised.

>>Watching people crying at the scene, mouths agape, a flood tide of donations and memories from around the world, I see once more the power of Abraham Lincoln’s words in his first Inaugural Address on full display–“the mystic chords of memory…”

>>In the midst of Holy Week. For a Christian, the timing is almost as jolting as the event itself. And is this what it felt like to witness the destruction of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem? See the books of Deuteronomy and Ezra in the Old Testament.

>>Somewhere in the atmosphere is the potential for the tragedy to act as a rallying point for the French people. Whether or not the potential is realized–if its million pieces coalesce into a whole–is yet to be seen. One can hope so. If an equivalent thing had happened in 2019 America, I’d be pessimistic about the chances of unity, semi-unity, or even a loose consensus.

>>A factor in favor of such a coalescence is the overall survival of the structure. Its continuance offers a focal point that a complete destruction would have lacked. Can you imagine the reaction if the entire church had burned to the ground? As it is, people can gather around the remaining pillars and portions, and reconstruction will have a natural starting point.

>>Is it just me or does fire possess a form of anger? Flames are awful signs of fire’s pleasure. Their heat is fire’s scorching breath. Fire eats with hatred.

>>Notre Dame is one building with many doors. Some are spiritual. Some are secular. All offer reverence and reflection on both the modest place and dramatic potential of people.

>>Popular Instant Media–the PIMS, my term for social media, digital communication, and the 24-second news cycle–hold lessons of the best and the worst. Best in that you see real people in the moment and can find oceans of further information. Worst in that you see real people succumbing to their dismal sides and submerging into every rumor and ridiculous notion.

>>Notre Dame’s first foundation stone went into the earth in the year 1163, courtesy of Pope Alexander III. At the same time, in the land now called India, the Thousand Pillar Temple is built, while the city now called Hong Kong saw the Lam Tin salt-fields open for use.

>>I saw a statement offered in the Popular Instant Media that lamented Notre Dame will never be the same. I understand the emotion. I also understand something else: that nothing is ever static or the same, and that the spirit and the Spirit are capable of amazing results.

>>I do a lot these days with the idea of your leadership in a particular place. How does a space transform into a place? The reaction to the burning of Notre Dame gives us a clue–purpose, the passage of time, and waves of humanity rolling in, one person at a time. All three help give a particularity to the place made from space.

>>The power of beauty. It is a force. We forget that too often.

>>Prayers for the old church and what it embodies.

Thanks for reading. All the best, Dan

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