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Notre Dame Cathedral Fire

The Notre Dame Cathedral fire isn’t the end of a piece of history. It’s history continuing on its way. One of my mentors, Peter McKinnon, told us that the history of great architecture closely follows the history of great fires. Churches and theatres start their inevitable march towards burning down the day they are completed. Then they are re-built. Or better yet, something that reflects who we are right now gets built in its place. And it stands until it stops standing. Notre Dame Cathedral took 182 years to build. Shave 100 years off that (since we’re using modern technology) and it still won’t be finished in my lifetime. Maybe not in yours. That’s the point. Great things are built and they fall down. They represent us as a society until they don’t. We build them as a society over several generations. They stand for more generations. Then they fall down. And we start all over again. I don’t say this cavalierly, especially since a firefighter was seriously injured fighting the fire… but the French say, “C’est la vie.” That’s life. We build ourselves up towards greatness. We stand strong while we can, but we will get knocked down.

And it hurts.

But then we get back up. We reassess. We redesign. We rebuild, incorporating lessons learned and honoring the sacrifice it took to get us here. Sometimes it takes generations. Sometimes it takes a good night’s sleep. Heraclitus of Ephesus (c. 500 BCE) said, “Life is flux,” interpreted in modern times as “the only thing constant is change.” Moments like this remind us that change is evolution and that at times evolution is revolutionary. But it’s all part of the same big cycle of life… C’est la vie.

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