A few memes I have identified in relation to the fire at Notre Dame de Paris:
From the conservative catholic: The secular antichrist is here to destroy our tradition and culture, which is superior to all other traditions and cultures of the world. (Catholic chauvinism and triumphalism never die!)
From a radical feminist: This spire is the symbol of male oppression, and its collapse is a decisive victory against phal-logo-centric western patriarchy. (Blame it on the male erection)
From the new ager: The goddess Isis has arrived to announce the new age of love and light and bliss. (Really? But yes a temple of Isis prefigured Notre Dame)
From the atheist/materialist: It’s tragic that this beautiful relic of the past has fallen down, but in reality, Notre Dame just a bunch of old stones. (Nah, Notre Dame is a divine masterpiece forged in centuries blood and starlight.)
From the environmentalist: Global warming is the cause. Mother nature is angry. Human civilisation is a cancer. (Cliché and misanthropic.)
From the Marxist: Capitalism has no place for the sacred. Religion is the opium of the people. (Half true. Capitalism and the sacred don’t mix. But life is impoverished to the extreme without communities of faith and houses of being.)
From the activist: Nobody is talking about the war and starvation happening in Yemen—human beings matter more than stained glass. (Can’t argue with that. But Notre Dame might be the metaphysical, spiritual zero-point of human Europe. We have no idea what its destruction really means.)
From the conspiracy theorist: This is a false flag zionist operation devised by George Soros and the Illuminati (Get out of your basement and get a life!).
From the fundamentalist: A sign of the hellfire and damnation for all those who practice the religion of the great Satan. (Projection! Check out your own Satantic nature.)
From The fireman: Somebody didn’t put their cigarette out. (Might be the best explanation so far)
My own two cents: Symbolically speaking, this is a mysterious, potent, and inexplicable event—a kind of death—and there is beauty in death if you look hard enough. It is also a lesson in fragility. Our existence, our structures, are much more fragile than we think.
In the future we will have to build new cathedrals, construct a more durable, sustainable modes of human worship—if we don’t destroy the entire world entirely first, that is. These new ‘houses for the sacred’ may not in any way resemble the old but we cannot forget of our deep perennial traditions nor be overly dogmatic about them.
Sadness at impermanence is a salutary emotion which rises up spontaneously when we see something great being destroyed. So it’s ok to weep for the gutted Notre Dame but know there is an open space for something else to emerge ….
Support or contact Andrew Sweeny: