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What Notre-Dame de Paris fire teaches me.

The very famous French, Gothic cathedral Notre-Dame de Paris caught on fire on April 15, 2019. Many sections of the precious medieval catholic church have been eaten up by the flames, leaving the jewel of Paris in a very damaged, fragile and desolated state. For sure, the destruction of such an irreplaceable masterpiece is sad. A little bit heart breaking, even, but…

Yes, to me, there is a but. Many buts, actually.

* Little disclaimer here, I allow myself to fully express these buts, knowing that no one was physically hurt or killed by the fire and that the investigation concluded in a short-circuit being the cause of the event.

1. Nothing is permanent

This is, in my opinion, one of the greatest and most important teachings of the Buddha ; nothing is permanent. Not even smartphones. Not even human beings. Not even giant sequoias. Not even ways of thinking. Not even love. Not even traditions. Not even a thousands of years old cathedral. Everything shifts, changes, moves, grows, evolves, dissolves or turns to ashes. That the essence of life itself! Understanding and embracing impermanence actually makes life so much easier and breezier and lighter. So, I don’t really understand what the real tragedy is here.

2. Souvenirs don’t have to be physical

Notre-Dame de Paris is old. Real old. Its construction began in the 12th century BC, can you imagine how rich, history wise (and probably money wise too since it’s a catholic landmark…) this building is? And now a huge chunk of it is destroyed! Does that mean history itself is destroyed? NO! As beautiful as it is, and as important as it was for some, there’s so many pictures, videos, datas, articles, books, (even a Disney movie…) that exist regarding this place of worship, that, no doubt, its history is going to remain for mankind to appreciate it, even if it’s physical representation would be entirely wrecked. Souvenirs, histories and memories live in the heart of those who gave it importance. They don’t need to be tangible.

3. Things are not important

At the end of the day, as much historical, monetary and emotional value as Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral has, it is only a large pile of bricks and mortar and wood and other expensive materials. It is obviously a really beautiful, intricate and stunning pile. But at its core, it is nonetheless, a pile. A thing. And to me, things are not really important. Not as important as people, connections, love, hugs and all. Therefore, I will never find it extremely sad, that a thing, not home to anyone or attacked by anyone, gets destroyed. If my house caught on fire, destroying my couch and my computer, but sparing human lives, I would, in the same way, not find it so sad. Because, things are things, and they are not important.

4. The world is so sad

Finally, the biggest and saddest thing I am learning from the Notre-Dame de Paris fire, is how desperately blind the world is. Particularly the Western, white, rich world. How can millions of dollars be promised or spent on rebuilding a catholic church while so many more horrible tragedies are happening at this very moment, everywhere on the globe? How can powerful leaders direct resources to a beautiful and historical pile a rocks, while the oceans are dying, children are starving, women are getting raped and married at 14, glaciers are melting, mass shootings are increasing, millions of kids don’t have access to education and clean water, racism, xenophobia and homophobia are still existing…

To me, that’s the biggest, most devastating tragedy ; how can powerful, rich white humans be so blinded by the smoke of Notre-Dame, that they don’t see how much harm is happening right now everywhere else?

What are your thoughts on the whole Notre-Dame story?


Andy L.


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