How Similar We All Look
When the flame-eaten spire of Notre Dame fell yesterday it caused a pain of grief as sharp as any death. People gathered on the bridges of Paris - staring, singing - strangers made recognizable to one another by the shared shock of unimaginable loss. I myself fought against tears all day long, on another continent, many miles away. Into a dark night the tentacles of collective heartbreak spread and spiraled out over the civilized world.
Notre Dame was a symbol of beauty. We feel its loss most acutely, for as humans, we need such beauty to fully live. Anyone who had stood in the Holy light of Notre Dame has stood in the midst of such beauty and felt the presence of God. And, as the late Irish writer, John O'Donahue, reminds us, "we feel most alive in the presence of the Beautiful for it meets the needs of our soul." To watch such a structure, one that has withstood the barbs of revolutions and world wars, crumble into dust right before our eyes was shattering.
In this holiest of weeks, it is difficult to view the fiery consummation of one of our world's most beautiful holy places as anything less than an symbol of something vital: a reminder, a portent, an omen. We live in a time when we are fervently encouraged to slide backwards into tribalism, when we are told our chief concerns should only be those within our own borders, when we are urged to separate, label and fear. How quickly those darker impulses fade when our eyes are turned towards the same burning light. How similar we all look, weeping.
Notre Dame will be rebuilt. It will rise from the ashes stronger and more beautiful than ever before with the help of a myriad of many-colored hands from many different nations. For while it is a landmark of Paris, a hallmark of France, it is also a lodestar for the rest of the world, one that points humanity towards hope and light, and we cannot lose its Holy beacon when we need it most. May yesterday's tragedy awaken our better angels to unite and rebuild not only a broken cathedral, but a broken world.