A Collective Thin Place
I’m not usually given to chiming-in on things, but something occurred to me in the aftermath of our collective loss on Monday, April 15, 2019; an April in Paris we won’t soon forget.
I was alone in the car driving through a wooded area of Litchfield in northwest Connecticut when it was announced on the radio that Notre Dame was burning - that the roof had collapsed. I promptly went to tears. This reaction surprised me, not because of its emotion, but for its depth. There have been several of these in my experience, but it was more about what followed that now has my attention.
As the magnitude of the fire became clearer, and sadness and despair overcame me, the first thing I needed was to share the burden with someone. I voice-texted my girlfriend who was working, thinking I’d be informing her. Turns out she already knew. These things get around quickly. We all need to share. More to the point, we all need to join.
Later on, I found myself at a gathering in a church basement. I’d have been there anyway, but today was one of those times when the word “need” came to mind. Two pals I’ve known a while were sitting to either side of me. Before things started we were chatting. It didn’t come up immediately, but one of them produced a photo of Notre Dame on his cell phone that he had taken during his travels. He just held it up to us without a word. In the short conversation that followed, we discovered we’d all had the same immediate reaction.
Before I’d headed to the church basement, I was noodling around on Facebook, quickly found a beautiful post about it, and ended up in a brief dialogue with its author (a fellow writer). Same reaction exactly. I looked at my first spontaneous response I’d written to his post. It said, “These are places where humanity can join.”
I find myself noticing variations on this theme frequently, especially when considering tragic, seemingly inexplicable things. This is a world where storms of all manner simmer and brew. They take many forms because it’s a world of forms, the final outcomes of individual and collective consciousness. These are the way things appear to be, but there is always more than meets our eyes. Always.
Not being given to omniscience, I can only speculate and hold forth a possibility. Perhaps this fire at Notre Dame in Paris is one of those places where we can join at a time when divisions are running so frightfully deep; where we can become aware that shared feelings are not coincidence, that maybe there is something divine trying to obtain our infinitely distracted attention, to reel us in from being so toxically mesmerized, to remind us of something. When we become numbed to so much of what we see, it must naturally follow that it will take something mighty big to un-numb us. Alchemy can be rather dramatic.
I remember well in the wake of all that happened on 9/11, there was a surge in our kindness, compassion, empathy, consideration, and a sense of a shared destiny. I would humbly submit that there are times and places where we can meet and be who we most truly are. Sometimes, perhaps tragedy delights in ushering us to something higher and more real.
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