by Akim Reinhardt
First things first. Am I happy that Notre Dame Cathedral burned?
Don’t be silly. Of course not.
Do I wish it hadn’t burned?
If I could wave a wand and undo the fire, would I?
This isn’t about my intellectual understanding of the building’s historical or architectural significance, it’s beauty, or what it has meant and continues to mean to millions of people. Rather, It’s about my emotional response, or more specifically, lack thereof, and the surprising reactions I received.
I learned about the fire when I texted a friend about a completely unrelated issue. Coincidentally, she happens to be a Medieval European Art Historian. As you might expect, she was very upset. I was sympathetic to her pain. Yet my own emotional response to the fire was largely nonexistent. I felt nothing.
Then, much as the flames engulfed the church, the story of Notre Dame’s burning engulfed the media. This came about for reasons I understand and really have no problem with. I did not resent the press coverage at all, but it did bring my own emotionless response into even starker relief.
The day continued. I met an old friend who was in from out of town. We had dinner and a couple of drinks. We caught up and talked for about three hours. Neither of us mentioned the fire. I went home and got online. The story was still all over my Facebook and Twitter feeds. At about 11:00 PM, I posted the following self-deprecating joke:
More proof that I’m a horrible person: Don’t really give a shit about Notre Dame.
Despite the late hour, the posting got many responses. Most of it was what I expected. One friend quipped: This is why we need fewer opinions. Others were more aghast. They wanted to know how it is I could feel this way? Some of their comments reflected a sense of betrayal. I get it. I understand that people were deeply touched by the structure and hurt by its burning, and I was sorry for their pain. I just couldn’t find it within myself to care about the building despite understanding its beauty and history. Read more »