One year ago Notre Dame was burning.
The symbol of spiritual quest, destination of pilgrims heretical and faithful, the cathedral of glorious stone guarding our souls from its Île in the Seine, the haven of Quasimodo and all phantoms living and dead, the Notre Dame. Burning.
There was much burning in 2019—the Amazon, Australia, California. The magestic and beautiful trusted forests of old were on fire and disintegrating with their inhabitants into ashes at our feet.
Then a microscopic spark jumped from a lab bat or a wet bat or a wet lab bat and dove down into a human lung, a tiny flickering flesh-eating parasite fell into a single soul and soon flew a million miles to fuel a million fires in other lands and other lungs, sucking out the combustible oxygen until the bodies outnumbered the graves.
The wealthy who sent fortunes to rebuild the burning Cathedral retreated to their Metropolis lofts, far above the mad and hungry crowds left to forage among the dead.
Those who could, sheltered in place, rescrubbed spotless tiles, took up hobbies, downloaded Zoom.
A friend told me the other day that she'd been through worse. I wish I could say that. Some who love me dearly lean on judgmental fences across exclusionary fields, unreachable by any language or logic that I know, any tool of my trade. I have dedicated my life to communicating across these borders, to understanding what makes fearful and angry people tick. And yet. They deny. What advances. On them.
I want to send new smoke detectors, but there's no postal service there.
Denial is a luxury of the rich, who swing their feet off rooftops in thin golden air, indifferent to suffering that does not kill their servant help.
Survival for everyone else requires the truth of the horror, however banal, however insistent the goose-stepping of its blind armies.
Survival requires knowledge of its reach, the direction of its marching assassins and trailing death squads. The decryption of its viral messages, the intentions of its generals.
Like rebuilding Notre Dame, one must know the honest weight of the flying buttresses, the wind capacity of the lacy spire, how the hot strips of lead struggled to hold the blue and purple glass in place, how the ancient wooden frames perished inside the stone towers. To rise again, we must know.
To embrace the surviving North Rose Window once again, we are humble as relics of a bygone age below the soaring pillars, now open to the sky, to flights of spirit yet to come.
16 APRIL 2020