Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Notre Dame en flammes

The first news I had that the cathedral of Notre Dame was burning was a text from my buddy Mike very early this morning. From what I can tell, the cause of the fire may or may not be related to electrical work that was part of a larger renovation project going on at the cathedral. While it was no surprise that items inside the cathedral might have been flammable, it was a shock to see how much of the cathedral itself was vulnerable to fire. I can only imagine that the renovation project was supposed to be finished in time for Easter, which would at least partly explain the timing of the fire. It was easy to think, reflexively, that this was a terrorist act of some sort, but initial reports aren't leaning that way. We'll see; if some group does end up taking responsibility for the fire, that might give the event a more sinister cast.

As for where we go from here, with the chance that France has lost a number of national treasures (along with the treasure of the edifice itself, or not) in the fire: my feeling is that France will rebuild. Cathedrals burn all the time; treasures are lost all the time. I might feel a greater pang if I were a historian, but I'd bet that every single treasure inside Notre Dame has been logged and recorded and digitally rendered many times over. The objects themselves might have been lost, but their memory will remain. If I seem a bit unsentimental, it may be because I live in a country where beautiful Buddhist temples have a history of repeatedly burning down and being rebuilt. Life goes on, and lucky for us, no one seems to have been killed in this fire. That's far more important than the irrevocable loss of a few material things.

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