Centuries of history have disappeared before our disbelieving eyes.
An unspeakable tragedy as we watch the past burn away. Like everyone who gathered around screens big and small to watch this terrible loss for humanity, I felt united in our shared helplessness as Notre Dame Cathedral burned before our weeping eyes.
That such beauty and history has perished is just too painful to comprehend.
I couldn’t help but be drawn back 50 years earlier when the history, the magnificence and grandeur of Notre Dame was brought into our own humble living room screens in the opening scene of the PBS series Civilization. This landmark series that changed television, is recalled today with bittersweet vividness.
At the start of the 1969 series the Scottish art historian Kenneth Clark mused with his patrician confidence:
“What is Civilization? I don’t know. I can’t define it in abstract terms yet. But I think I can recognize it when I see it.”
Turning to Notre Dame, he then added, “And I’m looking at it now.”
Now when we look we can do nothing but weep. Today some of civilization has been lost.
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