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Facing the Unknown

Ruines de la Cathedrale de Saint-Pierre

Cathedral of Saint-Pierre in ruins following a massive volcanic erruption that killed 30,000 people.


As molten-hot-lava poured forth from Pelée and littered Saint-Pierre's sky with ash, thousands of Martinique’s lost their lives and everything that they owned.  Volcanic dust mingled with the rubble and remnants of a once-proud city, leaving it in disrepair and the people in utter despair.  So often what we look for in images is exactly what we see, sometimes forgetting that beyond that frame is a world outside of our perception.  This is also true of life and the camera obscura of the mind:  There is much that remains beyond the reach of our faculties for knowing.  This image of Ruines de la Cathedrale de Saint-Pierre brings the existential to the forefront of the questioning mind.  We read biblical passages of it raining on the just and the unjust and even that there is something or some place called a lake of fire, but these ruins suggest that people are prepared for a little rain but liquid fire is something altogether different.  This image of a once-proud cathedral begs to be considered in light of what is not present.  The community that once hallowed its halls are gone, licked up suddenly by the flame.  The remaining brick and shards echo with a haunting silence.  There were voices here, once upon a time.  There should still be voices here, but the only witnesses left are a chaotic tissue of mute debris.  The image remains confined to the cruelty of the moment, while those arches still standing offer up a sobering rhetorical question: What is the overarching message of human suffering?