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I received the news via text from my brother just as I was beginning my ethics seminar: Notre Dame in flames! I took to Twitter and saw the images of the great Cathedral consumed, its instantly recognizable spire collapsing to expressions of horror and disbelief. Aware of the heavy silence of the room, I blinked back my tears, cleared my throat and swallowed my dread. I announced what I had seen, and mumbled something about the tragedy of lost art and history. These were not the proper descriptions of what I was feeling; with regard to my true emotions I exercised a disciplined silence. I took a deep breath and began my lecture on euthanasia practices in Europe, the elevation of individual autonomy and freedom from suffering as the highest goods and the subsequent political will for techno-bureaucratic control over the mystery of death itself.
The first time I prayed inside of Notre Dame I was twenty years old; raised an atheist, I had only been a baptized Catholic for less than a year. Wide-eyed and awestruck by the sheer immensity and grandeur of the space, I was thrown off by the irreverence of the tourist throngs inside, and I didn’t yet have the stable dispositions of religion that could help me navigate a church filled with non-believers without making myself into a spectacle. The second time I visited, one year later, was at the end of a long trip through Italy; by then I was well acquainted with a church as tourist attraction, and of myself as a curiosity. I attended mass, cordoned off from the teeming crowds by ropes, no longer bothered by the gawking, the gum smacking or the pitch of incessant chatter.
Time - Paris - Summer
The last time I visited Paris was in the summer of 2016. I had spent much...
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