While my wife was having her car valeted, we waited in a small cabin provided for customers. Next to the seats was a cage, seeds spilled all over the cabin floor by the birds that were inside it, scattered in an haphazard arc.
I’m not really a fan of birds being kept in cages, these creatures that have evolved to traverse the sky. But it did give me an opportunity to have a close look at them as they sang away, syrinx working overtime. Whenever my wife approached the cage, though, they stopped singing. She obviously looks more predatory than I.
I started to think about their ancestors, the dinosaurs, and how these birds looked like miniature versions of their magnificent prototypes. They once ruled the earth, and now here they were, caged.
They don’t know where they’ve come from, I thought.
Surviving Revolutions and World Wars, Notre Dame’s spire has long been a familiar sight to generations of Parisians, puncturing the capital’s skyline for over 800 years.
Back in the 1500s, the culture that we had built in the West embraced multigenerational projects quite easily. Notre Dame. Massive cathedrals were not built over the course of a few years, they were built over a few generations. People who started building them knew they wouldn’t be finished until their grandson was born.
Maybe it’s hubris, but we expect our creative monuments, our works of art, to last forever. Fixed points in man’s timeline.
Last night I spoke with a Frenchman, a Parisian, who was in mourning, speaking of a devastating cultural loss. I began to think of iconic buildings whose loss would affect we British people similarly. And then, as a Mancunian, a particular building in my own city, regularly seen and taken for granted.
I struggled to make a connecting comparison.
Then, the morning after that conversation, I woke to a photograph and the idea that, within all of those images of destruction and despairing I had lost touch with: there’s always hope.