The world reeled at the news of the burning of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris last week. And I’m not exaggerating too much when I say that. Most of the time I think it’s completely cheesy when someone claims the entire world is affected by anything. It’s like, get over yourself. But I know I wasn’t alone as I watched my social media feed be dominated by news coverage, memories, and hopes regarding the historic edifice. Having never been to Paris and not being a Catholic, I have no personal emotional connection to the building, but the loss of such a monument was saddening nonetheless.
Now, you can say what you want about all the money that was donated by wealthy tycoons to support the rebuilding. What more significant problems could they be solving with all that money? What is the Vatican doing about it? They have billions. You can interpret it how you wish – and I’m not saying your questions are not valid – but I would like to entertain another interpretation to the events following the incendiary incident.
While it is a pivotal location to the Catholic community, the people commenting on Notre-Dame are not only Catholics. The mourners cover every faith and non-faith out there. So it’s not just about religion.
Stories like Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame have brought the idea of the cathedral to the imaginations of the masses, elevating it to an almost mythical status. And visitors can’t help but be mesmerised by its beauty and power – the architecture, the stain glass windows. They are captivated by its art.
Think about that. The world is in mourning over the loss of art. Corporate moguls have donated over a billion dollars to the restoration of art
People – even those who pride themselves on their practicality and claim art is a waste of time that takes energy away from more important matters – are affected by art in ways they may not even know. Why do you think some governments over the ages have made the creation of art an illegal act? It’s not because it is a waste of resources that should be utilized elsewhere. No, art has been outlawed because it has the potential to be so powerful, so influential, that it poses a threat to their domination.
We may or may not ever become part of something on the level of Notre-Dame, as inspiring and delightful a notion as that might be. But we cannot forget that what we are doing as creators is important. It’s worth doing on some level. Even the most logical among us – those who love to tell us to get a real job or do something useful with our lives – still remember their favourite childhood story, the song that was playing when they had their first kiss. They are not immune to art’s power. They must acknowledge that someone wrote that story, composed and performed that song that became a part of their history – part of the soundtrack of their life, as I like to say.
If it is within us to do so, we have a right and a duty to contribute to the history of our and future generations with the art we create. We cannot know what will become of it. Our work may be momentarily enjoyed and forgotten. It may endure and be celebrated for hundreds or thousands of years. It is not our job to prophesy the fate of our art. It is our job to create it and share it as we are so inspired. As the reaction to Notre-Dame will attest, the world needs us to do so.