Character · Ethics · history · Inspiration · legacy

Beyond the Cathedral


We watched with awe and sadness as the fires ravaged the cathedral of Notre Dame.  Millions watched, transfixed as the spire crumbled into the inferno.  Crowds gathered along the streets in Paris to watch a special place of church and history crumble.  Watching the clips on the news and reading the feeds, I felt a pang of sadness.  I’m a Catholic, and this place is a bit more to me than just a building.

Notre Dame is a monument of history and religion.  It witnessed the rise and fall of kings, queens, and tyrants.  It witnessed revolutions and world wars, and stood through it all.  It’s a symbol for what we should all aspire to be, regardless of religion, or lack thereof.  That is, to be good, decent people.

Easter week is a week of the celebration of renewal and life.  This year is still a celebration, but perhaps it’s a bit muted this time around.  As I reflect, I realize that it’s just a building.  But it’s a building full of history, religion, and art.  Buildings are constructed, maintained, and will eventually fall.  This is the nature of things.  Given enough time, even the great pyramids will turn to dust.

When a piece of land burns, the charred landscape will be a place of rebirth.  Plants, flowers, and trees will grow again, eventually erasing the damage caused by the fire.  The ecosystem will recover, and life returns.  Notre Dame will be the same.  It may never be quite the same, but from what the damage inspections show, it will survive and be repaired.

The true inspiration is that in the glowing light of the fires from that evening, as the firefighters fought the flames, and as the crowds gathered in candlelight to pray and serenade God, is that the cathedral inspired.  In the potential moments of death, this grand cathedral inspired the people.  For a shining moment, people were together in unison, regardless of political persuasion or religious belief, the people were one.  A brilliant, shining light beyond anything the fire could create.

It’s always the people, not the building.  We can build structures that dazzle and seem to defy laws of physics.  Engineering and design may come together to make something spectacular and unique, and may even stand for millennia.  But the people make things special.  They are the true inspiration.  The cathedral isn’t in good shape, but it will be.  Even if reduced to rubble, it’s the people that make any church, group, department, or organization special.  Too many people put more emphasis on the material, and not enough on truly important things.  The church in Paris will recover, and perhaps be better than ever.  The people will see to this, not a building.

We are the church, not the building.  We are the organization, not the company.  We are the country, not the government.  Look past your title, wealth, or power.  Focus on your actions.  You can build a grand building that inspires, but your morality and your actions make up the foundation.  If you lie, cheat, and mistreat others for your own gain, your foundation is corrupt.  Focus on your thoughts and actions, and make something special.  Regardless of what you do, always remember you are the reason that something can be special.  You are the author of your legacy.

We mourn the damage for the cathedral, but we should celebrate the inspiration we’ve witnessed this past week.  Let’s continue to build on that instead of reverting back to the status quo.

Building are just a representation of what the people are.  We can choose to make something meaningful, or not.  We can do this quite easily.  Just be good to each other, and like the old saying goes, treat others as you wish to be treated.  Such an easy concept.

Happy Easter, everyone.

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