There’s a monster growing outside my hotel window here in New York City. It’s called the Central Park Tower and it will have the tallest rooftop in the Western Hemisphere. In the Middle East and in Asia, of course, they build higher; the Chinese, in particular, treat the construction of massive skyscrapers with the same seriousness that Americans reserve for making sure that all pronouns are gender-neutral.
From my window I can see the cantilevered side of the structure. The “air rights” for the cantilever were purchased from the directors of the Art Students League next door; the members of the League promptly sued the directors. A court told them to pound sand. In New York, the very air above you can be purchased. Some part of the building was once the city’s original Steinway dealership. In recognition of this, there will be Steinway pianos in the building. They will not go unplayed, as they do in Beverly Hills, because the new owners will have children with musical accomplishments.
Central Park Tower will cost three billion dollars by the time it is completed. You can roost near the top for a mere $95 million, or you can live down near the proles for a quarter of that. It’s worth noting that there are only two kinds of people in the world where these prices are concerned: those for whom such a residence is beyond even the distant reaches of possibility, and those for whom it will be a second home, a pied-a-terre for occasional visits to the city, a minor part of a diversified portfolio. It’s become common for Chinese families to buy these things as hedges against some potential chaos in the homeland. Russians, too.
In fact, the entire saga of the tower, as blandly described on Wikipedia, has a distinctively international flavor to it. The Chinese own a big part of it, the Israelis were involved somehow, various globe-spanning banks and corporations bailed each other out of potentially bad loans. None of it makes much sense until you consider that the building simply must exist. There are 179 extremely powerful and important individuals out there who wish it to exist, to say nothing of the Nordstrom corporation and the various other business tenants. It is an expression of will, of belief, of faith.
Which is to say… it’s a cathedral.
As the new cathedral rises, the old one burns. The media and the government in France tripped over themselves assuring the population that it was not arson, presumably to prevent further social unrest. Yet there appears to be a coordinated effort to burn and desecrate churches in France. The government pretends to not know the reasons, even though they are obvious to anyone who has set foot in that country over the past decade. Christianity is on the way out in Europe, beset by the twin pincers of self-interested woke-capital atheism from within and vibrant Islam from without. Of course the churches have to burn. Everyone involved understands the power of symbols.
I doubt that the new cathedral in New York will last as long as the old one in Paris did. Time moves faster now. Resentments and resettlements ferment and bubble over in years, not decades or centuries. If you think about it, there’s a lot of faith involved in the Central Park Tower; faith that the coasts can eternally dictate policy to the people and land between them, faith in the dollar as the reserve currency of the world, faith in an endless supply of newly-arrived and conveniently-servile labor to keep the infrastructure humming and the food cooking and the violence down to a dull roar. The 138th Field Artillery Brigade of Lexington, Kentucky could organize in a weekend, drive there in a day, and drop the tower in an afternoon. What stops them? Well, there’s the Army proper at Fort Hamilton, and there’s the general sense that we’re all fellow Americans, doing this thing together. Whether the existence of $95 million condos owned by foreign nationals is good or bad for this fellow-feeling is an exercise left to the reader. Much of the Central Park Tower was funded through EB-5 visa programs.
You can say a lot of negative things about Christianity but it has long been a sort of glue holding this country, and other Western countries, together. We were all taught that men might be unequal on this earth but that we would be equal in the sight of God. What if there’s no God and no equality? What if most of us are just serfs on the urban plantations of the ultra-wealthy? What if we remove ethics and morality from the equation, and accept that the existing order of things is maintained by nothing more or less than the threat of force? If all that comes to pass, then won’t all the cathedrals burn, eventually?