7.2 Editor's Pick
April 17, 2019

The Burning Truth about Notre Dame.


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When a building stands for as long and has been through as much as Notre Dame, it is difficult to fathom that its structure is as fragile as our childhood dreams, as destructible as all other things we might wish to remain the same.

I remember standing on the pebbled beaches of Dover, England and peering across the channel at France.

England was the farthest I’d ever been from home, and the closest I’d been to needing to speak another language. When I imagined Paris from the base of the iconic white cliffs, I imagined the towers of Notre Dame.

Notre Dame. I’ve said her name to myself many a time since my first middle school French classes. Usually followed by, “I’ll get there some day.”

And yet yesterday, many like myself gazed at cell phones, televisions, or computer screens as her spire, and then her roof, toppled to the ground; as panes of her stained glass shattered in the heat like memories that we had not yet been able to make.

I did not know her. I’d never set foot in her city, and I didn’t know but a tiny fraction of her ornate history—but as smoke seeped from her pores, my throat burned with caged tears.

I hadn’t felt a sense of confusion like this since the collapse of the Twin Towers. The realization set fire to a trail of thoughts: I pondered my audacity to make this personal; I admired the sheer power of technology—the idea that what once would have been France’s tragedy alone was now instantly the world’s; I thought of buildings as symbols of authority and about what conversations we hold with and around them when suddenly they—or part of them—turn up missing like some child on a milk carton.

And there it was.

The blow of impermanence. That’s what scourged me.

If the 856-year-old Parisian cathedral could come to fall in a day, what else may come to pass?

A spokesperson for the church was quoted as having said in the midst of the firefighting efforts, “Nothing will remain from the frame.” Hours later, French president Emmanuel Macron vowed he would rebuild Notre Dame, illustrating beautifully the roller-coaster found in rejecting impermanence: tragedy—third degree burns treated with a Band-Aid.

In life, we build frameworks—some of them as thick as forests as was called Notre Dame’s wooden interior. We do all that we can to fortify these structures in our lives, be they religion or faith, career, relationships, or health. When we fear an ending, we tend to reject it and the discomfort of the impending transformation.

But eventually change catches up, and when it arrives, our Band-Aids begin to peel. Inevitably, decay disables their hold.

To resist impermanence is to slowly tear the remaining good adhesive from our haired skins. To embrace it is the quick rip of the strip. Either way, as soon as it’s done, new skin begins to grow and we heal. It is up to us how quickly we would like to do so.

Notre Dame may one day be bandaged and constructed anew, but her passing from one form to her next reminds us that it is only a matter of time before we all come to fall either in situation or in death.

The burning truth is that when one day she comes to rise again in her full glory, she will be une autre dame—another lady—still the world’s to cherish, but with stories new, and stories old, and stories yet to tell.

Only one thing is for certain: she will change, we will change—everything will change.

author: Marisa Zocco

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Image: @Ecofolks

Editor: Catherine Monkman

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Heidi McArdle Apr 22, 2019 3:55pm

was not able to heart. “I pondered my audacity to make this personal.” You do a service with your writing to express this and to express without grandeur both the heartbreak and the reality that the future will be alive and have its stories also precious.

Mary Stanley Apr 18, 2019 12:15pm

Wow. Thank you.

Danny Saxon Apr 18, 2019 7:36am

Thanks for a thoughtful, well written article.
You wrote… “The blow of impermanence. That’s what scourged me”. I felt the same watching the videos of the fire.
I remembered being in Antigua Guatemala for the first time and roaming the many churches in ruins from past earthquakes that were never rebuilt or restored. I have seen the ruins of temples and monasteries in Tibet, Nepal and such places as Ankor Wat and all over Mexico and Central America. Nothing last forever and it is up to each country and culture to make the decision to rebuild or not.
I feel the money to rebuild Notre Dame could go a LONG way to help the many immigrants struggling in Europe and around the world and the hungry and suffering worldwide. But… It is not my choice. I have seen the church a number of times as well as the many other beautiful ones in Europe. They are all amazing works of art and history which as a lifetime woodworker and construction person, I marvel at and appreciate.
The people donating tons of money to restore the church have their reasons and they may also donate just as much money to humanitarian causes. We all have a choice to do what feels right and try to not judge the things we may not agree with. Our thoughts and maybe frustrations about rebuilding or not have duration as well. All things pass.

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Marisa Zocco

Marisa Zocco is an Instagram Caption Novelist and a half-butted blogger at The Ramble Blog, where the all-around life-enthusiast, expert of little and curious about much, posts a too-sporadic sampling of—well—rambles. A budding conservationist and environmentalist passionate about the great outdoors and all its splendor, Marisa fairly consistently makes like a bird, re-tweeting content focused on Mother Earth, the protection and preservation of her resources, and the living beings she hosts. Above all, Marisa, a University of Southern California-educated journalist and creative writer, holds a firm belief in the power of the written word to connect individuals and inspire a healthy exchange of differing ideas—the bigger the difference the better.