Yesterday was a very difficult day for me. Like you, I’m sure watching the images of Notre Dame de Paris engulfed in flames was horrifying. Seeing the destruction of beauty is always heartbreaking because its beauty represents the best of who we are. Notre Dame isn’t simply a Catholic Church for Christians, it is a symbol of beauty and transcendence. Having been to the Cathedral before, it’s especially moving to me because I feel an attachment to it. I’m also attached to it as an organist, as the Grande Orgue is one of the finest instruments in France, a country rich with organ building history. Thankfully, as of this morning, the organ remains intact.
More than all of the “stuff” that was lost or damaged, it gives me pause to think about our attachment to beauty and how there seems to be a universal agreement on the definition of the word. Notre Dame provided us with an experience – an out of body journey where we were transported to another time and place. Beauty has a way of taking us to places we never imagined were possible. Think about when you first met your significant other; you were probably moved to another dimension. I still remember in crisp detail the moment Juliana stepped out of her car and walked towards me on our first date – time stood still. I know the moment that my son is born will be the same way – a moment of absolute beauty.
The creation and preservation of beauty truly represents the best that humankind has to offer. I would say that the national parks, landmarks, cathedrals, paintings, sculptures, and Great Music are the most obvious manifestations of this. However, there are other less obvious and equally moving pieces of beauty in this world. Smiles, laughter, intense focus, love in all its forms, sharing a meal, and many other nuances are, in my opinion, the most gorgeous pieces of artwork the world can appreciate. We are all miracles at our core. We are not the things we do, the opinions we have, the money we make, or the countless other ways we define ourselves. No. We are all beautiful.
Why do we miss this? It’s simple – we take it for granted. The people of Paris probably adored Notre Dame, but to them it was just “there”. The same can be said of New Yorkers with the Twin Towers until they were gone. We take for granted the things that are always there and yet, when we do this, we miss an opportunity to celebrate them with gratitude. I’m so guilty of this. Sometimes when I watch my two boys play, I miss the intensity of their curiosity because I’m too busy doing something “important”. Other times, I get annoyed that my wife is taking up the sink while I’m trying to get ready instead of thanking God for placing her in my life. This is easier to preach than to practice…trust me.
So as Paris rebuilds, let’s not miss the beauty of the recovery process. They first have to get rid of all the damage and destruction before the rebuilding can begin. It is the same with us as we are constantly being battered day in and out on the sea of life, which is always raging against us. We come home from work with sunburnt skin and salty hair, broken down and tired, clinging to the hope that maybe “one day it will get better”. The only way we can get through life is by helping and loving each other in solidarity and that, my dear readers, is the most beautiful thing of all.