Just the Right Thing

A lot of churches like to say they’re built on the rock. But the Christchurch Cathedral may be going down the tubes instead.

The last time most of us on this side of the water saw the New Zealand cathedral, it had been ruined by a massive 6.3 earthquake. But now plans are coming together for a temporary replacement – one built from cardboard tubes.

No, this isn’t April 1. And no, the congregation isn’t grabbing a couple of refrigerator boxes as well and parking themselves under a bridge.

“The strength of the building has nothing to do with the strength of the materials,” Japanese architect Shigeru Ban told Inman News. “Paper buildings cannot be destroyed by earthquakes.”

I suppose I should feel inspired, or amazed, or even amused. And I do. But I suspect my core feelings are ones readily echoed by journalists across the country.

See! I knew those cardboard tubes would come in handy someday!

Like a lot of reporters, I’m a bit of a pack rat. OK, a lot of a pack rat. If there’s a chance something will have a use later – or even if it just seems kind of cool right now – away it goes.

Which is why I still have newspapers from my first job 13 years ago. Hey, I might need those clips for my next resume!

Or notes from a long-ago class on Media Law. It’s always good to have a quick reference handy…

Or even – yes – cardboard tubes from paper towel and wrapping paper rolls. You wouldn’t believe how many uses these things have!

Yep. If you need an emergency church built, I’ve probably got the materials right here. Including at least two old hymnals and a couple of spare Bibles.

I console myself that I haven’t reached Oscar the Grouch levels yet. Though every so often the Muppet’s old song rises up to taunt me:

I’ve a clock that won’t work and an old telephone,
A broken umbrella, a rusty trombone ….

Which leads me in turn to look at the stuff every so often and ask “OK. What on Earth am I actually going to do with this?”

Not a bad assessment, actually, for the physical or the psychic. A lot of us carry a lot more baggage through life than we need and all some of it is good for is weighing us down and holding us to the spot. A little cleanup isn’t a bad thing.

Then again, you never know. I can see where even my most painful memories have built me rather than broken me – the junior high bullying, say, that left a lasting empathy for the pain of others. And even the silliest incidents and little-used skills have found an outlet somewhere. I mean, if even the mock Christmas carols of my childhood can turn into a column (“While shepherds washed their socks by night …”), who knows what else may prove useful?

You can take that to church. Even to Christchurch.

Don’t forget your cardboard.

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