There is Hope in the Flame of Notre Dame

Is history really that important?

In answering this query for an online assignment back in college, I decided to play Devil’s Advocate. The teacher clearly wanted everyone to affirm that history was vital; it was a history course, after all. And, like little ducks in a line, all the students did.

If there is one thing I cannot consistently stand, it is following after all the little ducks.

No, I argued, history is not important. We don’t actually need it.

  1. No one learns from the past. The proof is in the repeated mistakes.
  2. Conditioned to luxury and entitlement, we behave as Huxley predicted and always seek for what is new.
  3. History is written by the victors or their fans, and is redacted and altered by current social climates. 1984 (George Orwell) proves that.

Though I did not make the following points, I could reasonably add two more for our modern times:

  1. We have a glut of information and lack time for the general public to ingest it. So, instead, most people only follow useless, instantaneous fluff.
  2. Technology has the capacity to 3-D print what we need, thus eliminating paltry ideas like stonemason or architect skills.

The online repartée with my professor ended unfavorably, by the way. He acknowledged all comments in a general, summarizing paragraph at the end of the week. He specifically mentioned “one student” who had argued this and that against his statement, said I’d referenced 1984 erroneously because it undermined my main point (it didn’t), and suggested I ought not to argue too far out lest I “find the branch cut off behind (me).”

I’m still sore that I had no way to post a counterargument.

That aside, I do not believe that history is not important nor that we ought not to learn it. Instead, I lament that most people do not respect history. Most do not seem to know its significance or beauty or work …until it is removed. Stolen. Ripped away. Burned.

This morning I had intended to write a different post. I thought to list my hectic schedule, thereby garnering a few commiserating comments and explaining my abysmal online presence. Instead, in catching up (somewhat) on blogs I follow, I read a very-well written piece about the recent Notre Dame catastrophe. The Feathered Rose, in “To human ingenuity,” described “both the stillness and the motion in (her) thinking” as she contemplated her feelings about history.

A friend of hers suggested that Our Lady will be rebuilt and will continue on as she has. Other buildings of historical significance have undergone changes and rebuilds, right?

“My friend, speaking through the words of Douglas Adams, is correct that, once rebuilt, the Cathedral will continue to serve its purpose. Architects, historians, engineers, builders – these people will no doubt admirably restore the ideaintentiondesign, and essence of the building. Tourists will continue to flock there. The faithful will continue to pray…”

So, really, what’s the big deal? Why was the horror of destruction not sated by the consolation of repair? Fortunately, she finds and gives us an answer:

“Human ingenuity isn’t only about intangible progress. It’s also about the evidence of our past.”

That is one sentence stolen -ripped, burned- from paragraphs she wrote of beautiful reminisces of history. Reminders of what the past means and why we need it. Pasting any more of her post would require at least half a page, but I highly encourage everyone to read it.

I love the voice she gave to my own unrest. I love the poetry of her memories.

If given a chance to state my enduring and authentic hope for history today, I would counter-argue my previously-stated points:

  1. We all learn from the past, though we may take a few revisits to retain what it taught.
  2. The flashy and new appeal to the young and inexperienced. Once they run out of money or solid chairs to sit upon, they will change to old and reliable.
  3. History may be written less-accurately, but all information must be taken with a pinch of salt. Assume bias, watch for author’s flavor and preference, and remember your own colored glasses.
  4. The general population will always grab at fluff; the important and durable information will endure.
  5. A handmade work is impressive and appreciated, and even a computer needs to be ‘taught’ the skills.

Why do we walk the halls of the past? Sometimes it is merely to feel the echoing footsteps of the people who came before. Wouldn’t you wish for the same, of those who will come after?


How has the destruction of Notre Dame touched you? Is the past important enough to retain what we may for the future?


Here is what I wrote last week. I intend to take the remainder of the week in stride, as I really am quite busy:
Wednesday, April 10: Spent a happy reminiscence discussing children’s picture books with “Picture Books Are Always in Season.

Thursday, April 11: “The Cure for Depression: Get Some Sleep!,” another suggestion in a series originally posted over at The Bipolar Writer Mental Health Blog.

Friday, April 12: Winner of the Weekly Terribly Poetry Contest. Congratulations to Everyone who entered!

Saturday, April 13: Announced the 22nd Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest. The theme is an acrostic of the person you detest. PLEASE ENTER!

Sunday, April 14: “In The Beginning, There Was Distraction,” in response to Carrot Ranch‘s prompt.

Slipped in a tongue-in-cheek poem titled, “(Real) Life Advice.

Monday, April 15: A book quote from Something Wicked This Way Comes. I am slowly, very slowly getting through this one.

Tuesday, April 16: “Wilhelmina Winters, Ninety.”

Also, posted, “Mental Illness Really Sucks” over at JES’ site.

Wednesday, April 17: Today.

I also posted all this week at my motherhood site. I wrote “Religion in the Home” and a fantastic poem titled, “A House(work) at War.”

I’ve a part-time job writing stuff for Kids Are the Worst‘s blog now; and publish scintillating works like “10 Actually Easy Easter Crafts for Kids.” I intend to keep things real and funny over there.
Speaking of writing jobs, I see that one of my vacuum reviews is online and it’s not even the re-write DumbFace demanded. Funny world.


Photo Credit:
Maxime Naillon

38 thoughts on “There is Hope in the Flame of Notre Dame

  1. Well written, well argued Chelsea. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and the Feather Rose. Cheers to antiquity, indeed it demonstrates our past accomplishments. Unfortunately and maybe for another post we may be devolving. Or at least, we are not as rich a race as our ancestors. Especially considering the glory of many eons in spirit and in art. But maybe I will write about that in a post.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. A worthy subject, yes!

      I’m also curious about what you mean. I admit I’m not intimately familiar with people throughout all time, but feel that the general population was not literate, wealthy enough to avoid things like meal worms, and devoid of access to arts or such. 😀

      I agree that The Masters of Renaissance times demonstrated excessive talents, particularly for the limited tools and materials of the day.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you, Chelsea. Yes, we have many creature comforts now. But we’ll need to look East and West. Not all cultures were plagued by plagues throughout history. However, from an evolutionary perspective we can look at the Ancient Egyptians, Ancient Asian and South American cultures that had vastly different intelligences than we do today. In current times we are hyper-focused on rational cognitive and scientific thought processes. I must admit when I say this, my measure of evolution is not straightforward. The human soul’s evolution is where I am looking rather than the physical plane. And even on the physical plane, I am not quite sure what literacy rates are around the globe as compared to westernized countries. It really may be time for me to get these thoughts out in an essay form.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes, may be. I am Western-advancement focused, due mostly to the population and conquest successes of that group. You are right that all peoples have histories and arts and such. And China is incredibly successful, even by those same Western standards.


  2. I think there’s beauty in looking back and seeing how far we’ve already come. Here in the Philippines, we actually have a proverb that goes: “Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinanggalingan ay hindi makararating sa paroroonan.” This literally translates to, “He who does not know how to look back at where he came from will never get to his destination.” Despite this, I agree that not many people have learned from our past mistakes. Whether that’s due to a lack of deep understanding of history or just plain conceit, I do not know. But, I do wish we preserved more historical sites; not just the Catholic churches and cathedrals.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Yes i agree – was that the right answer?! History gives us a context and a setting as well as a sense of flow, of being part of the human continuum. Its not just the standing on shoulders of giants thing, but also an agglomeration of the humdrum that has paved the way to the now in the same way that we become the future’s paving, part of the foundations that stop us floating, give us some anchors from which we can rise and break away – or sometimes be weighed down by.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. History is a peculiar study, it ought to be viewed objectively and profoundly but, being a humanities subject, we can’t help romanticising.
    I have visited Notre Dame – it’s the most visited thing in Paris, apparently – but it is French so while I think it’s a pity and ought to have been protected, I’m not feeling overly emotional. I think our equivalent would be St. Paul’s in London but that’s already been devalued by the surrounding modern architecture.
    For me, these buildings are literally works of art – irreplaceable because the craftsmen are gone. I enjoy art and always imagine the human involvement in the creation, but it’s really a timeless view.
    Also the cost of replacement at an equivalent quality would be impossible, I think, and probably unethical. Was it ethical at the time? That’s a question conveniently ignored because we do cherry pick from history to suit a nationalistic or patriotic purpose. More than a work of art or a place of worship, the great ostentatious cathedrals and monuments now represent symbols of nationalistic pride, and are good for the tourist industry, and I can’t help feeling this is what will be replaced. But what else can they do? They are patriotic, like us. I don’t know how much the ordinary citizen knows about the history. Not much, I suspect.
    Sorry if this is a bit of a downer, it’s not meant to be. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I thought that about the Great Pyramids, the work of slaves, or pressed labour, but apparently it’s not definite according to Egyptologists. They were hard up peasants, probably glad for the work in order to eat and feed families. Who knows?, it was flipping hard work and life threatening.

        There has been a bit of controversy about many of London’s older, grander building being originally financed by the slave trade – like its national galleries – and if to add insult to injuries, these are now funded by the oil industry. Then there’s the business of petitioning to have statues removed because they commemorate now undesirable heroes or events etc.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. More good points. Knowing history, I doubt any altruistic intentions regarding workers. 🙂

          I also do not agree with removing statues any more than I agree with editing things that were written back when we used different words for different things.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Words are a can of worms.

            Coincidentally, I was genning up on Notre Dame thanks to reading your post, looking at the sculptures in particular, and google included a sculpture of Moses coming down the mountain with horns – though not in Notre Dame. Out of curiosity, I followed this and there is another, more famous, by Michelangelo. Apparently, it’s about the purposeful misinterpretation of words. The Hebrew word as written for “radiance” is near identical for “horned”, and so earlier Christians deliberately used that to subtly demonise a Jewish prophet: instead of a halo they gave him horns!
            Now ought the art of Michelangelo be removed from sight? No answer required. 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

  5. Excellent post, but I want to talk about how that prof was obvipusly unfair. If he wasn’t going to take criticism of historians or history, he shouldn’t have asked the question.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Never argue with your professor. Even if you are right, you don’t win 😉 (Well, maybe as an adult student, but my experience was when I was a 20 year old).

    There is (or was) a feeling at Notre Dame that was not in any other place in the world, even older or more historic buildings. It is like the spirit of the place, as if the history is still alive. Not sure if they can rebuild that. And a lot of history was lost. But a lot was saved – the fire in Brazil’s National Museum last year was so much more devastating – hundreds of thousands of pieces of history gone forever.

    We have to remember that the damage before the 19th century renovation was likely as bad as the damage this week, worse in ways. The scars of the Revolution are still visible. Almost all of the statues are “new” since the old were purposefully destroyed. The cathedral has been altered before and will again. All of these old buildings have.

    The amazing thing is how much was saved. Most of the stained glass. A lot of the art. Most of the stone work. Religious artifacts. Amazing amount.

    I have hundreds of “before” photos. Some day I will go take hundreds of “after” photos 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. My first response to hearing it was burning was, “They are gonna have a blast redecorating”.. So I guess you could say, I am of the mind, that it will be rebuilt, and continue to fulfill its centuries old obligations.. And about history repeating itself.. Spot on.. I love the lore, but am ever so guilty of not learning the lessons.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Have we learned from History.. We go to war, we bomb other people in other countries, we create refugees and in some instances certain cultures have gone backwards to live in the middle ages.. I love History but we are to arrogant to actually learn from it..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think they are. Oh, sure: everyone likes to tell me happiness comes from within and I need to not focus on what people think. Then, professionals also say to change our situation and such in order to feel better.

      I think I’m rambling.

      Both are important. The end. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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