Our House is On Fire

On Monday, April 15th, and from around the world, we watched our house burn. Notre Dame Cathedral. We watched from the streets. We watched from the rooftops. We watched from our televisions, and from behind the cameras on our cell phones. No matter our faith or non-faith, we witnessed the erosion of strength and resilience, of beauty and grace. Notre Dame stands for something. We were distraught.

Notre Dame Cathedral Fire

Ladybird, ladybird fly away home
your house is on fire,
your children are gone

            On Tuesday the 16 year-old Greta Thunberg from Sweden spoke to the EU leaders gathered in Strasbourg. “Our house is falling apart and our leaders need to act accordingly,” she said, “because they are not.”

            Thunberg, through tears, is speaking a familiar litany: erosion of fertile topsoil, deforestation of the rainforest, toxic air pollution, loss of insects and wildlife, acidification of our oceans . . .

            “These,” she says, are being accelerated by a way of life those of us in the more fortunate part of our world take as our right to carry on.”

           Untold numbers of us are awed and grateful for her magnificent voice, her clear vision, and her truth-telling. But the anomaly continues to unfold: her clarity of vision and her courage earn her standing ovations – as they should – and still, we who are making policy are not changing the way we do business, the way we do politics, even religion, the way we do energy and education, the way we do science.

            The people who see clearly – a preponderance of them young people – are not old enough to vote.

Ladybird, ladybird fly away home,
your house is on fire
and your children shall burn.

            I think most of us would recognize Notre Dame Cathedral as a sacred place, even those of us who no longer – or perhaps never did – name God as the inspiration. Yet if those sacred stones have come from the earth, which they have, then how can we not understand the land as sacred: the land, the waters, the forests, the creatures, the air . . .

            Notre Dame Cathedral stands for something, whether or not you are a follower of Christ. That said, the planet doesn’t just stand for something; it is the something. Belief or non-belief doesn’t have an edge here, for this is our sacred reality; this is our sacred home.

            There are many who deem other things more vital, more important, and more self-serving. But they are wrong.

           Is there anyone of us who does not yet understand that our home is on fire?

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