Yesterday, I met a good friend at the Eiffel Tower, and we spent the day visiting some of the main attractions above ground in Paris (Notre Dame, Victory Arch, Louve, Angelina’s chocolate shop on, etc) – and enjoyed some of the vibrant life that filled the streets.
For a section of the day, however, we also took some time to see the catacombs, which quietly wind for nearly 300 kilometers beneath some of the lively streets above.
Hiking 25 meters underground, we came to an enclosure under the city of Paris that was dimly lit, moisture dripping occasionally on us from the low ceiling (which I had to duck at certain points as I walked) – and along the walls it was filled with rows and rows of bones – from approximately 5 million people!
For some reason, seeing the remains of so many people who once were alive, breathing, working, playing, etc – triggered a cognitive/emotional reaction. It wasn’t spooky, but did make me pause and think deeply.
It just poignantly struck me again how short life really is.
It made me re-consider what it is that I really want to do with whatever stretch of years I have – hoping I at least do more good than harm during them.
I thought about how much of the things I worry about on a daily basis might not matter that much in the long run – and how grateful I all the good things in my life (e.g. health, friends, family, laughter, faith, opportunities to learn, chances to contribute to things that are worthwhile, etc.)
Next time you are in Paris, you should consider a visit to the Denfert-Rochereau Ossuary (“The Kingdom of the Dead”). I am informed that at least it is better than the boat ride through the sewer system below Paris (which someone told me you can also do).