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The Bones of our lives

Confessions of a realistic pollyanna

Like millions of people across the world, I was saddened to hear about the fire at Notre Dame this morning. I was lucky enough to visit the cathedral in 1995. I was awed by the magnificence of the cathedral that had stood for almost 8 centruries. I imagined myself having stood where millions of faithful had stood over the year.

Now in an instant much of that magnificence is gone. The spire has fallen and much of the roof was destroyed. Will the great organ sound again? If the cathedral is rebuilt how long will it take to restore it to magnificence? I am sure that for the people of Paris, if not many from around the globe, they can hear the cries of the citizens of Jerusalem when the temple was destroyed.

Very few buildings remain from 12th century Paris. Many have been bulldozed only to be replaced once, twice, or many times. I have been told that small houses existed where now my unit block stands. They served a purpose for a number of years, but when the needs of the city changed, they were taken down so unit blocks could be put in its place. I imagine that as this part of the city changes in the next few years, what with the coming of the new metro line, that this building here might give way to a taller unit block here with more people living on the corner of Plunkett and Chandos than is possible now.

The recent debate over stadiums here in Sydney, also shows, rightly or wrongly, that buildings are temporary in nature. One stadium, Alliance stadium, just 30 years old, is under the chopping block. People in government felt it was more cost effective to build a brand new stadium rather than refurbish the old.

So rightly or wrongly, our buildings that we surround ourselves are temporary. They are not meant to last forever. They are meant to house people for a generation or two and then they make way for a new building to serve a new generation.

But certain buildings are timeless and we miss them when they are gone. I visited York Cathedral in 1994 just after it had been hit by lightning. The magnificence of part of the building was obscured by plastic sheeting and scaffolding when I visited two weeks later. The World Trade Centre stood in New York City until 2001. I never got a chance to see the city with these buildings standing, but when I first saw the city, it was as if a huge hole was there at ground zero. It seemed strange when I visited the city last to see a new building being erected in its spot. It is hard to imagine Sydney without its opera house, London without the Houses of Westminster and St.Paul's, and Washington without the White House. These buildings have stood the test of time and have become part of the very nature of the city. They are expected to stand for generations to come.

So it is of Notre Dame.It helped reach beyond the temporary and mundane and reached to a glorious past. It is one of the few reminders that the city had been there for many generations. I mourn that we have lost a link, at least temporarily, with so many saints of the past. Blessings

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