Notre Dame Cathedral, Chaco Canyon, and Historical Preservation

Notre Dame cathedral in France caught on fire. And that got me thinking.

Specifically, it got me thinking about the importance of cultural preservation, how we got to caring about Notre Dame cathedral so much, and how we can carry that attitude moving forward.

We as an American/European culture got to caring about Notre Dame cathedral mostly because of Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame – or, in the original French, “Notre Dame de Paris.”

Believe it or not, that book has nothing to do with the love “triangle” of Quasimodo, Esmerelda, and Frollo. That dynamic was more due to later interpretations and adaptations of the novel to the movie screen. (For more on that, check out this video by Lindsay Ellis if you haven’t already.)

No, the original book is a lengthy essay about the importance of architecture to a culture and how architecture outlives and outlasts the people who live around it.

So, if you ever read the book and wondered, like teenage-me did, why the characters are so unlikeable and why there are entire pages devoted to the flying buttresses… well, now you know.

In short, Victor Hugo’s book was written in an attempt to preserve Notre Dame cathedral at a point in time and history when cultural preservation wasn’t even a concept. Keep in mind, too, that when Hugo wrote the book, Notre Dame cathedral was practically a shell, having been looted and torn apart multiple times until he wrote “Notre Dame de Paris.” This book was written with the intent of telling people why this cultural edifice was so important, and urging people to restore it and preserve it.

I’m glad we now live in a world where historical and cultural preservation is a thing. And I’m glad to live in a world where the burning of Notre Dame Cathedral is considered a tragic event because of the historic significance of the landmark.

That said, don’t worry too much about Notre Dame Cathedral. Now, I’m saying this as an American Pagan and not a French Catholic. I’ve never seen the cathedral in person, and my only visual memory of it is the Disney adaptation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. However, Notre Dame Cathedral has the Catholic Church and the support of millions of Catholics around the world to restore it. Notre Dame cathedral will be fine.

My hope is that we remember the significance of cultural landmarks like Notre Dame Cathedral, and we carry that attitude with us towards monuments and landmarks that are at risk.

Like, here in the United States, we have a lot of cultural parks at risk at the hands of our current government administration, who are more focused on resource extraction than on cultural or historic preservation.

As an example, let’s take a look at Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico. This site is not only a culturally significant site to MANY Native American tribes. It’s also the home of the oldest Pueblo ruins in the United States.

And the problem? The largest of those ruins, Pueblo Bonito, was excavated, but nearly half of it was buried again under a landslide. All of that work, and all of the artifacts left to excavate, was lost.

And my concern? Right now there are fossil fuel companies looking to build mines, or god forbid, go fracking, in the lands in and around Chaco Canyon. The earthquakes that those operations cause could bury more ruins and make us lose more history.

My hope? I hope we remember the example of Notre Dame Cathedral and we carry that momentum forward, to protect the cultural landmarks that contain our history.

Chaco Canyon and Notre Dame Cathedral mean different things, depending on your religious outlook. But they are both significant landmarks that have outlasted and outlived the peoples who originally built them. My hope is that we remember the significance of places like Chaco Canyon and we treat it with the same care and respect as we do Notre Dame.

Thank you for reading.

You. Are. Awesome.

P.S. If you would like to find out more about Chaco Canyon, here’s their official website (if you have the means to, they also accept donations). And be sure to check out (and if you can, support) The National Park Service, the organization that protects sites like Chaco Canyon nationwide.

On Acceptance

I was originally going to rewrite this, as it started as a journal entry, but I think I’ll just type it up as is. I will, however, add description on a key character.

acceptance essay chaco canyon pueblo ruins

Annoyance with Trump won’t get me anywhere. Anybody can be Trump. He is not unique.

The way to win is not hating them or pushing them to a corner of the internet so they can wallow in hatred for others AND themselves, like Greg.

Let’s talk about Greg: he’s my mom’s ex-boyfriend, who lived in our house for about a year. He was unemployed for nine months of that year, as he got fired for showing up drunk to work and yelling at his boss.

He was, and I gander he still is, an alcoholic.

When mom finally broke it off with Greg and got him situated in his apartment, not ONLY did he get so drunk he passed out on the couch and didn’t help her move his ten-ton furniture – but during Thanksgiving he got so drunk he went outside, fell off a retainer wall by the driveway, and passed out in 30 degree Fahrenheit weather for about 3 hours. He had to be life-flighted to the hospital, wherein he told the doctor, “I don’t have a drinking problem.”

You know, like a liar.

Greg lied a lot, not just about drinking.

Greg is also an avid Trump supporter.

Of all the people I have met in my life, Greg is the most like Donald Trump.

And here’s the thing: Greg. HATED. Himself.

He would moan about how he was such an awful person, and never did a damn thing to fix it.

The problem is the only people who can change them are themselves. You yourself can’t change them or their opinions.

Compassion and forgiveness CAN help – they are not the only cure-all, especially in situations like this, but it’s certainly more effective than relegating these people to sit in the corner, aka the dark hug-boxes for people like them on the internet.

I am reminded of the scenario illustrated in The Zen Book by Daniel Levin, about the priest and the baby. It goes like this:

A young, unwedded girl from the village gave birth to a baby. She said the father was the priest who lived in town. The girl’s parents came to the priest and demanded he care for the baby, to which he said, “Is that so?”

Disgraced by the town, the priest took the baby and raised her as his own child. Years later, the mother of the baby confessed and said the father was not the priest, but a young man who worked in the fields. The parents of the girl came to the priest to apologize and ask for the baby to be returned. And the priest said, “Is that so?”

Only the girl and the parents could change their ideas. No amount of debate the priest could give would change their mind. The only thing he could do was roll with the punches and keep moving forward.

It’s not about trying to prove yourself right in the eyes of others. What matters is that you are right with yourself. Accept the truth when others choose to ignore it.

And here’s the truth: we all have the capacity to be Greg. Or Trump. But we also have the capacity to be Martin Luther King, JR. and Mother Theresa.

It’s up to us how we want to move forward, and to do right with ourselves.

Thank you for reading.

You. Are. Awesome.