Notre Dame Reminds Us That We Belong to One Another

The world is rightly grieving the destruction at Notre Dame right now because it reminds us of a truth we so easily forget: we belong to one another.

Watching the flames swallowing up such a universally beloved testament to the staggering creativity that humanity is capable of, we recognize how tethered to each other we are, how fragile and fleeting everything here is—and how starved for beauty we all are these days.

Our collective breath is taken in such moments because that breath is our commonality showing itself—and we should pay attention to it.

Art at its best will always reveal the bedrock truths of who we are, which is why a tragedy like this isn’t merely a French loss (as profound as that may be) it is a loss for the planet. In a time when we are conditioned by our leaders and our news to be violently tribal, the fires toppling Paris’ iconic spire burn away the many and common trivial territorial impulses—and we are left with just our naked, unadorned oneness. We are left with the reality that we are all in this together, despite the story some might tell. In truth, there is no “caring for our own” to ever be done here—because we all a singular interdependent community, that is strengthened or weakened by everything we endure and cause others to endure in both obviously important and in seemingly insignificant ways.

The sadness of this day is not bound by borders, the sense of attrition not limited to a single language, our reverence for the consumed beauty not contained by geography.

We all see the destruction and we all feel it.

It isn’t just wood and glass and concrete giving way today, it is a sustained wound to our shared humanity—one we would do well to remember.

There is nothing we do or create or feel or breathe individually or collectively, that doesn’t touch the rest of us. The best of our faith traditions, the greatest of our Constitutions, the most profound expressions of our creativity, and our most noble personal convictions tell us that we are inextricably bound together.

We grieve for the people of France who live in the literal shadow of Notre Dame—and we grieve too for every artist who has every marveled at its intricacies, every visitor who’s ever stood beneath its dome and stared up in wonder, every admirer who could only view it from the distance of books and movies.

We all belong to one another.

The more we remember that, the more beauty we will make together in this place.

And the world needs beauty now more than ever.


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