I am not a Catholic. I am not even a Christian in the way that Christians define themselves. I am no architect or art historian. I speak very poor French. Why does the burning of Notre Dame arrest me, stop my breath and line my brow? I think it is because I am a human and that place, that expression of unimaginable passion, story and product of ingenious, exquisitely executed craft, is what humans do when we are at our very best. We alone do this—certainly in the Solar System and perhaps in our local galactic neighborhood and beyond.
That we might make a roof over our head or a building to store grain in can be attributed to functional need. Good old Maslow. Dry, warm and fed. But writing a poem?-useless. Painting a picture, sculpting a bronze, playing a banjo, dancing to jazz, performing Shakespeare, sidewalk chalk-art, singing in the shower…all not necessary to biologically survive. Much less so imagining, planning, marshaling the resources, teaching the skills and directing the thousands of hands, hearts and minds to manifest something like Angkor Wat, The Grand Mosque or Notre Dame de Paris. It is not necessary, except only to express what we and we alone can do on our world. To make it known that we are the Wonderers.
The artist, the writer, the architect, the scientist, the spiritual practitioner all circle the great village fire of curiosity. We have the gift, and maybe sometimes the curse, of wanting to know. We are driven to understand. Art, science and spiritual disciplines are different ways of getting at the why questions, even trying out some answers.
So, I will be heartbroken for Our Lady. She is us at our best and her suffering connects with our hearts, no matter who we are or how we think because of what we are. May she heal with our good attentions and may we heal too from her great lesson. The bells of Notre Dame do not discriminate between ears. Her form is ecumenical to all eyes. She reminds us that we are commonly bound by our noble striving to make answers. Heal well Grandmother.