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  • Daniel Bernhard

Losing Beauty


I am stunned by the uncanny persistence of a mindset that still seems to be moved so much more easily by a beautiful building burning to the ground than by species going extinct, humans suffering due to poverty and oppression, indigenous cultural heritage being systematically destroyed and eradicated for centuries, the collapse of ecosystems... I see where that comes from. And I can totally relate.


It's about beauty.


Beauty is what truly sustains my heart in any situation. If beauty is destroyed it tears my heart apart, whatever kind of beauty it is. Just funny to notice how the beauty of this building which fulfilled its function in full service to the power of a terrorist institution is so much more striking to people's perception than the graceful, intelligent, radiant, elegant Sacredness of a piece of land which is then being cut in half by a pipeline, devastated by mining, suffocated by an oil spill, logged, monoculturized, drowned by a dam in order to cater to someone's desire for profit. How did we become so numb to the normalcy of the daily destruction of this form of beauty? How are we white Europeans able to be so sensitive and beautifully vulnerable when it comes to a church burning down and so completely unemotional about the countless artistic achievements, technologies, communities, the architectural, spiritual, political knowledge that humanity lost due to the ongoing project of colonization?


The lady who sold me three pairs of socks at Karstadt Hermannplatz today (there was a reduction of 20% on socks and underwear only today) told me that she was not herself today because she had stayed up all night because of what had happened to Notre Dame. This is so deeply fascinating. And I am not writing this sarcastically or in order to accuse her, us, myself. It's fascinating how our reactions are so much shaped by what our cultural context gives value to. And exactly that is the place where change can happen.


We can train ourselves and each other differently. We can re-learn sensitivity toward all living beings, to give value to Life above anything else. We can become slow and silent and hear what the Land has to tell (in the case of Notre Dame it might tell about the pagan rites of Goddess/Earth worship people used to practice here, about the millions of people who stood here, struck with the overpowering beauty of this stunning church, about the „witches“ and heretics who were burned on the square in front of it).


We can value the interconnectedness and mutual support in a forest as a miracle that is at least equal to spectacular architecture, we can open our hearts to complex stories of how everyone's lifes are crisscrossed by power, we can open ourselves to the beauty and the suffering of the world. I believe this will make everyone more alive and fulfilled. Because it creates connections, even if there's a lot of pain in these stories. But unlike the cheesy nostalgia about the glory of the old times, this pain is real and it opens our hearts to each other. Each of us is a church, a temple, sacred. Whoever can mourn a holy site can also learn how to defend the sacredness of all beings.


To growth, to the Goddess, Notre Dame.


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