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Paris is a dwelling that is laid out in my mind, and has been for forty going on fifty years. Now it has a gaping, blackened hole in its substantial centre. There's an undeniable tug on the emotions there, a feeling of loss after the disbelief of watching the nonstop TV images of the fire.

Not that the religious function of the edifice matters much to me. On French public TV last night, a self-satisfied prelate insisted that Notre Dame had been a place of continuous prayer for all those centuries. Night and day, through the years, prayers had gone up to the high Altar above. No journalist asked him what use they had been, if the recipient of the prayers had not seen fit to protect the place.

Born of medieval theocracy, the cathedral was a magnificent human achievement in the name of an illusion that has faded. The French are massively less Catholic than they were a generation or two ago. Churches are empty, practically abandoned, there are few priests (even though the identitarian squad make plenty of noise). The truth is that today, Notre Dame's principal function was touristic. One more monument or museum to visit and say we have seen.

So I'm not sure that a single vision, a uniting mythology, really sustained the cathedral over 850 years. I don't think that, at its beginnings nor for long after, the brutal authoritarian religious hierarchy contributed to a sense of our common humanity. I wouldn't expect us to be able to project ourselves forward over another 850 years. However, if we need to sustain our common humanity, we need to have a lively sense of our common humanity, and of our place as living beings in a complex web of life that we must not destroy.

We're not there yet.

I used to be afew. I'm still not many.

by john_evans (john(dot)evans(dot)et(at)gmail(dot)com) on Tue Apr 16th, 2019 at 03:36:44 PM EST

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