Yesterday we had Notre Dame burn to the ground. Many of us were shocked and even in tears. I have been there, I used to go to Paris a lot, and loved it. I thought about putting my photos of it on social media, but everyone is doing it, so thought the best of it. Ironically this awful incident happened on the same day London had a huge protest about the environment (which I will cover in a different post.) If one really thinks about it – on the one hand it was concern about the destruction humans are doing – and on the other the destruction humans are inevitably doing.
How can the cathedral be the destruction we are doing? Well, each time we try to bring history into the present, we repair, renovate, renew, and in many cases as a result we’ve caused these precious buildings to burn to the ground, bringing about the end of history much faster than anyone could wish for. It seems our hand of sleight is adept at destroying many things no matter what. Look at all the animals we have pushed into extinction. All the eco-systems we have ended. All the in the name of progress. We say we are going to improve or enhance something and its actually worse. Its a sort of equation we have but don’t seem to know how to stop it – or whether we really want to stop it: Improvements/progress = more destruction.
Awesome, if unsettling, picture posted so many times on Twitter. I wrote two weeks ago about the anniversary of the Eiffel Tower, and then this happens? Its famous neighbour is destroyed… Twitter
On the other hand, its a sort of natural process and what we are doing is accelerating it. We call it progress and its a many sided sword. There are ups and downs and goods and bads. And the good (or is it the bad?) Humanity will end too, become extinct. We are so good at ending things that one wonders whether it ultimately matters about the immensely long term end game to it all? Eventually the Earth will die and crash into the Sun and the solar system will retract and compress into a dense amount of material perhaps no bigger than a pea. That is if we haven’t fallen into this huge back hole billions of miles across…
The end is near! Super duper massive Black Hole in Galaxy M87 which can easily swallow up our own solar system! Twitter
It follows that we humans are good at procreating, at inventing, at building, but we find all sorts of ways to end many things. We call it progress, we call it war, we call it revenge, we call it politics, we call it religion and so on. Someone doesn’t like another person, the answer is these days just to show the flash of a blade and let them see their lives flash before their eyes or in the case of a group of others, conduct an act of terrorism.
You see we have answers but we also dont have answers. Its futile. As those in the East End used to say ‘Yer wastin yer time.’ Exactly. One of the ironies of yesterday’s protest was it took place along the axis of two underground railway lines, one opened a long time (its coloured dark blue) and another not yet open (but you can guess which because its purple and named after the Queen) and yet despite these two lines’ credentials in helping to sort out and reduce pollution, they are both serving one of the biggest polluters in the world. Air travel.
Our own major airport – a considerable source of destruction. Twitter
Yes Heathrow Airport which is going to get a new runaway and smash the living daylights out of more villages and communities, no doubt obliterating many species and fragile eco-systems in the process too. Many embrace the idea of the Queen’s new purple line as something new, innovative, fantastic – except it isn’t. No amount of carbon footprint reduction or ethical gerrymandering has made it any better than anything else. In fact its going to help send the fly-in-the-air-on-a-winged-plane’s polluting ratings even higher. Down the tunnels on a new hi-tec train that conserves energy and the rest of it and onto an airplane where the exact opposite is done and people’s intake of pollutants into their lungs are sent through the roof.
That is an example of our contrived thinking. Another is nuclear weapons but what can I say about that? People are determined to be such arseholes and think everyone else has the intent to bomb each other so they build up these great arsenals. Of course we had wars and the rest of it but now I should think the world should be getting tired of these. Wars dont work. But the US, Russia, DPNK, China, India, Pakistan and many others are gleefully building up their stock. No amount of talking seems to get any of them to renege and get rid of their terrible weapons. Its just the same as knife crime. Some small slight and everyone is suddenly armed with knives, with an objective to eliminating every single negligible threat that arrives on the horizon. If you thought knife crime was a problem just look at the bigger guys with their nukes! One could say there’s knife crime on one hand – and there’s life crime on the other….
Two leaders with a bent on life crime…. Twitter
Two more leaders with a bent on life crime…. Twitter
Perhaps we should just forget all our inconsistencies and just slash, burn raid, kill, press the buttons and watch everything explode into nothing? Its actually not going to make very much of a difference in the long term. Our children their children and the many many children after that will have all gone to the great graveyard in the sky and so will Earth too. And the really big thing? We really can’t do very much about it – except press on regardless.
Let me tell you, it really upsets me when history is treated in cavalier ways, when communities are treated in cavalier ways, when things and people meet their demise for no good reason, but on the whole nothing has really changed in any sense. History ironically hasn’t been learnt from very well – so why are we so cracked up about it? It does not matter what race, creed, belief, politics, philosophy, scientific method, one aspires to there is no ultimate answer to anything. And that is part of the human condition. We claim to know everything about being human – but do we really?
Its just a reification, a world we have built up with no comparator. Its not like the experiment where one group of cats lived in a room with vertical stripes and another group of cats lived in a room with horizontal stripes and the two groups of cats couldn’t get on when put together in one room. We have set standards for which we have no real comparisons except thoughts, philosophies ethics, morals (which too have no real comparators except by way of discussion and debate – and ultimately its us who make up the ‘rules.’) A crime is a crime in some communities and not a crime in others. There isn’t an overall single sensible project that aims to at least alleviate the human condition and reduce some of the the stresses and conflicts we have.
What does this have to do with the burning down of the famous cathedral? Well its the inevitability. No matter what we do we seem to bring about ends that we don’t want. There is the idea of self-preservation too. Many would rather live and let others die. Remember the breeches buoy in the Towering Inferno? The joke on everybody however is that absolutely no matter in what way the queue’s order is changed, the greatest game changers, the greatest game re-arrangers, the greatest leaders of rebellions against human inequality or belief have all gone to pot too. No matter how many times the queue is studiously avoided everyone and everything soon reaches the queue’s end. That goes for everything – governments, kings, queens, historic buildings even.
Windsor Castle and Glasgow School of Art among the many historic buildings – some lost completely during the restoration process. Twitter
We have burnt down a lot of historic buildings in the attempt to restore them. Windsor, and the total loss of the Glasgow School of Art – all in the name of history. It seems to be a very common occurrence – buildings practically restored, renovated, the fantastic project’s nearly finished, just a couple more weeks or so to completion – and then it burns down? That’s our inevitability in the scheme of things.
What is the point of history if we keep burning it down? What is the point of preservation if we can’t keep our hands off the fact we make these things disappear much faster than we would like? As well as deliberately knocking it down in the name of ideology or profit, or new railway lines. In war a lot of history is destroyed, it gets wiped totally. It seems we don’t really like it in any sense! And to that I ask, why even bother in the first place?
My mum once said to me she found a nest in the rafters of our porch. She took it down. The next day it was back. She took that down too. The next day it was back. Clearly the bird, whatever it was, was not having it. It wanted its nest there and no qualms about it. Notre Dame will be rebuilt no doubt, but the question is why? Is it like the nest or is it something else? There was huge carelessness no doubt, but why are we putting things back when we don’t seem to be very good custodians of any sort at almost anything? In fact I don’t think we act like the bird. We act in a very different sense with a very different intent – and a very selfish one at that.
Just fuck off and leave my nest alone! Twitter
I mean if we really think about it, we can wipe each and every one of our historic buildings off the planet tomorrow if desired. Every single precious cathedral we have has the potential to disappear faster than Notre Dame. Gone in a flash. Its absolutely scary. We can actually wipe each and every one in a single moment of time. ‘I hate these cathedrals and I fucking hate history too – let’s press that red button.’
(Not forgetting the millions that too will disappear in that grand scheme of demolition…)
How I learnt to stop worrying and love the bomb… Twitter
Doctor Strangelove – or how I learned to stop worry and love the bomb… What about ‘how I learned to stop worrying that tomorrow we could wipe out each and every one of our precious cathedrals?’ Why are we so destructive? Is it because we are humans or because we are such contrived creatures that we believe one thing and do another? Are we really humans? REALLY? REALLY?? Just think about it – we CAN wipe out every historic building tomorrow! Every single one! Along with practically every single human that exists on the planet too. When that has all been done are any of these cathedrals actually going to be of any importance?
(Not forgetting the millions of animals, birds, other species and eco systems that will be wiped out too… as those beautiful nukes take off and flower their detonations upon every single part of the planet.)
Some stupid country’s bad toys… Twitter
What is the point of history or building if we havent even got a sensible approach to it? Do we even understand history? The absolute importance of it? I wonder. The other week they were saying it would take 20 years to restore Notre Dame. Yesterday it was wiped out in a short space of a few hours. Its very sad. Perhaps it was carelessness, I dont know, but the fact is at a stroke the very opposite of what was desired had been achieved. This is a persistently common trait throughout humanity. As I have said we can wipe out the lot tomorrow if we want. That’s millions of Notre Dames gone in a flash. Who needs history when we have nukes? Who needs Earth even? Here today, gone tomorrow – in less than sixty seconds…
Tomorrow another historic building will burn down, tomorrow another nuclear weapon will built and be placed in position and on alert poised to kill thousands, millions more. Tomorrow more people will be stabbed, tomorrow our elected democrats in a so-called democratic government will waste yet more time on an inexorable and recessive subject. Tomorrow many people will die in car crashes, die from heart attacks, other causes. Tomorrow more animals will be extinct. More air pollution will arrive in our lungs. The list is endless.
The one big missing ingredient is we do not, not anywhere, not in any form, in any sense, have a comprehensive and effective means of sorting anything out. No single project anywhere that alleviates the human condition or this contrived human inevitability in which we are so good at destruction and the rest of it.
Everyone squabbles and fights over differences. We all cite Marx, Smith, Machiavelli, Socrates, God, Allah, and many other beliefs, politics, philosophies, histories, and defend our corners inherently with armies and retrograde governments with their fingers hovering above the red button or waving the red book and that is why we have differences and can’t agree on any single damn thing. But we can blow up every single damn cathedral if we want! To me the only difference is no-one is going anywhere. We are not achieving anything. Not one person has the solution. Not even one damn single person. We have no answers.
Adieu to Notre Dame.
PS… the fact so many offer to pour millions into one burnt building than they would rather do with another burnt building speaks volumes
(as is being pointed out on social media today.) Our priorities are completely perverse, distorted, if not entirely wrong.