PARIS – In a rare show of the unspoken unity that binds the world’s oldest edifices, dozens of architectural landmarks cancelled all viewing hours and made haste to France today, as they rushed to the side of the Notre Dame Cathedral, after the world-famous church was severely injured in a horrible fire.
“Taj?” said the Parthenon, speaking quietly into a phone in the late evening, from his ancient home in Athens, “It’s Notre Dame. There’s been a terrible accident. Pack your finial, we’re going to Paris. That young lady needs us.”
“I’m on my way,” the Taj Mahal said without hesitation, before asking if anyone had called the dozens of children that the classic cathedral has inspired into being over the course of her 850-plus-years of Gothic beauty.
“They’re already on their way. All of the lesser Notre Dames are coming. Even that football playing one that likes to fight.”
Although travel arrangements are still being made for many of the largest historic buildings, space around the French capital is already quickly filling with the massive monuments to the spirit of our small (but oddly determined, and occasionally transcendent) breed of near-monkeys. A tribe of semi-intelligent bipedals that despite living relatively brief lives – or perhaps because of it – seem compelled to create astoundingly grand structures. And then we mourn them as they go – partly for the loss of beauty; partly for the falling away of another connection to eras past; and partly for the reminder that everything we have ever known, and ever will know, amounts to nothing but the briefest of flickers across an ember in the relentless furnace of time.
“Have you guys seen my capstone?” The Great Pyramid of Khufu shouted at his brothers, Khafre and Menkaure, in the pre-dawn hours of an Egyptian night, as he hurriedly tried to gather his things for the trip to Paris. “Do not tell me I never had one. We all know that isn’t true. And I’m simply not going to let Stonehenge see me without it.”
“Of course I’m coming,” the Great Mosque of Mecca said, reached via phone shortly after the first prayers of the day. “Many people assume we are not close, the churches and the mosques. This always surprises me. After all, we are built by the same longing. Which is, of course, just another word for God.”
“People are, understandably, feeling quite low about how dire this is, and what a sign of the times that we should lose something so old, and so beautiful, just as current world politics takes such a coarse and juvenile turn,” said Machu Picchu, as it hastily ushered confused tourists off its steep paths, and made plans to up-stones and travel across an ocean, there to stand with a fellow member of the Living Antiquities Club in its time of need.
“But if I may, allow me to point out – as gently as I know how – that this view is somewhat lacking in perspective. The hallmark of a given time isn’t what was lost in that era – and I’m not just talking about buildings here people. It is, of course, what was built, and rebuilt.
“Trust me. One moment you’re a teeming hub of civilization, the next a glorified mountain catch-basin for dry leaves. And a hot minute later you’re packed with life again. Structures come and go. It’s the act of making them that’s immutable. Same as everything else. Be sad, of course,” the old citadel said, pausing to look at photos of the still-smoldering remains of Notre Dame’s timbers, art, and other pieces of painstakingly sequestered time, released back into the nether by the nihilism of today’s fire.
“But don’t despair.”