Notre Dame in flames on Monday. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Who among us is not mourning the burning of the Cathedral of Notre Dame?

Who, in this holiest of holy weeks, is not wondering what those horrid flames portend?

For devout Catholics, purgatory and hell come to mind.

For those lapsed, or otherwise sectarian individuals, the loss of a what Victor Hugo dubbed “a symphony in stone” brings inexplicable sadness. As if part of us went up in flames, too.

French President Emmanuel Macron spoke about what all Parisians felt when he told the nation, “I am sad to see this part of us burn.”

And historians, no doubt, will find the felling of this magnificent cathedral something of a metaphor for the collapse of the spirit, the will, or the soul, or perhaps a warning.

But a warning about what? The global decline of democracy? The fragility of the environment? The failing planetary stewardship? The absence of trust? All are at risk. And most feel it, even if not articulated.

The architecture, the romance, the history and the beauty of this medieval house of worship that survived centuries of exposure, multiple revolutions, millions of parishioners and gaping tourists was ravaged yesterday.

Notre Dame, quite literally, was brought to her knees.

So too, were Parisians. They massed on the bridges and in the streets, kneeling in prayer and singing the Ave Maria while watching the powerful flames engulf part of “the epicenter of our lives.”

My takeaway is that this is an opportunity for a potential spiritual cleansing—a new dawn possibly.

The same old, same old won’t cut it anymore. Humanity needs rescuing—not demonizing.

Teleprompter answers, political spin, stupid tweets, and vague promises of clichéd solutions are out.  It’s time for great leadership to change the poisonous atmosphere.

San Diego can and should provide part of that change. It can begin with the next mayor.

Asylum seekers being dumped in “sanctuary cities” is not the greatest threat facing San Diego. It is instead the coming tectonic changes—requiring near genius aptitude and answers.

The next mayor needs to be an environmentalist, a tech wonk, a budget analyst, a creative thinker, a pragmatist, and a maestro who can orchestrate multiple—often raging constituencies into the future.

And, most importantly, the next mayor must be a human being with the soul of Notre Dame. A Renaissance individual. A Da Vinci of politics, full of wisdom and grace.

It’s time for building a finer spirit into our city. Just as the French have begun in theirs.

The richest and poorest of France have come together to donate near a billion dollars to rebuild their cultural and spiritual epicenter.

As of late Monday evening, the western facade of the cathedral—the twin bell towers, the Portal of Judgment—appeared to have been saved. The worst has been avoided.

That Portal of Judgment beckons us all this Holy Week.

Germany’s Prime Minister, Angela Merkel, best captured the ideal spiritual future that awaits ships of state. A future that summoned the motto—coined for Notre-Dame in the Middle Ages—“Fluctuat nec mergitur.”

Translated: “She is tossed by the waves but does not sink.”

It’s a fitting prayer this Holy Week .

Colleen O’Connor is a native San Diegan and a retired college professor.

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