I typically stick to one blog post per day, with one notable exception, but this has been a momentous week. When I left the house to head down to Brooklyn on Monday, the Cathedral of Notre Dame was burning. I'd check my smartphone whenever the train was stopped long enough in a station for me to access the MTA wifi service. When I arrived at the beautiful Bell House, I was able to discuss the fire with my great and good friend Dr Simon Garnier, whose sister in Paris sent him a picture of the cathedral roof aflame in the night.
Kudos to the Paris fire department for their heroic effort in saving the cathedral. Thankfully, nobody was killed in the fire... this brings me to my main point. I visited the Cathedral of Notre Dame seventeen years ago, and while I remember the building being extremely beautiful, my main memories of Paris were of people- a bistro owner who took a shine to my handsome nephews, a busload of Italian tourists who were, to my sweat-stung eyes, were wearing about two layers of clothing too much while I was roasting in a short-sleeved collared shirt. The cathedral was beautiful, it was designed to be beautiful, to draw pilgrims to Paris to increase the prestige of the city and the nation.
My mom's dad's mom was a Parisienne, she left France to avoid an arranged marriage and sailed to Buenos Aires where she met her husband, an Alsatian sailor... her's is the most romantic emigration story of them all, the one which didn't boil down to 'you can't eat scenery'. Walking the streets of Paris, visiting the cathedral- these experiences made me feel a connection to my great-grandmother. The Cathedral of Notre Damn was a testimony to the inspiration, the aspiration, and the perspiration of its builders. They built for the glory of God and Country over the course of a couple of centuries. Unlike Frank Lloyd Wright, I love Gothic and Neo-Gothic architecture, that particular genius which makes a massive stone pile look almost diaphanous... I imagine the spires of Elfland would look much like a Gothic belfry.
I have no doubt that Notre Dame will be repaired... the fires probably started due to a mistake made during the renovation work that was in progress (or perhaps Michelle Obama using a drone-delivered Directed Energy Weapon on the roof). The cathedral has undergone alterations and renovations throughout its eight-century existence. Money is pouring in for reconstruction efforts. The damage to the cathedral is extensive, but can be repaired. There are disasters which can be rectified. Meanwhile, there is an irreparable crisis in France, the ongoing deaths of marine mammals offshore. Notre Dame will most likely be rebuilt in my lifetime, but the ecological catastrophe that is occurring won't be. Notre Dame is eight centuries old, and if rebuilt may very well last another eight centuries, but the plastic garbage gyres in the world's oceans will outlast our species.