The fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral is a devastating event for those of us who celebrate the ingenuity and creativity of our predecessors — but also teaches an important lesson.
Notre Dame is a central landmark in one of the most beautiful cities in the world and a treasure of western civilization, with its Gothic architectural grandeur and exquisite rose window and flying buttresses and soaring ceilings that seem to reach up to heaven itself. Generations of Parisians and travelers have marveled at the cathedral’s magnificence, enjoyed the quiet solitude of its immense interior spaces, and wondered at how it could possibly have been built so long ago.
Now, much of that has been destroyed by the blaze. The French government has vowed to rebuild the cathedral, but it’s impossible not to wonder whether fully recreating the structure can be accomplished and how the interior decorations that were destroyed can possibly be replaced. And even if it can be done, will the result still inspire the same awe-inspiring thrill that the original Notre Dame, in all its Gothic glory, inevitably provoked?
As I was thinking of the fire yesterday, I was immensely saddened by the magnitude of the loss, but also happy that I’ve had a chance to see Notre Dame, on multiple occasions, before the fire, including a visit that Kish, Richard, Russell and I took over the holidays several years ago when I took the picture shown above. Notre Dame was decorated for Christmas on that occasion, with a huge Christmas tree positioned in front of the entrance. It was a memorable trip, and I’ll always be grateful that Richard and Russell had a chance to see Notre Dame as it was.
It’s helpful to try to find something positive, even in the face of a tragedy like the fire at Notre Dame. It’s very difficult to do in this case, but perhaps the useful lesson is this: don’t assume that wonders like Notre Dame, in all their glory, will always be around, or accessible. If you want to go see something, do it — because you never know when it might be changed into something different, if not gone forever.