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In 1976, Margie and I took a bus tour through Europe.  

As a Hemingway fan, I was most delighted to see Paris and visit one of the world’s well-known landmarks, the towering Notre Dame Cathedral.

As we stepped inside, in mid-afternoon, we found the choir was singing, just for us.

Monday, relaxing in my La-Z-boy chair, I watched the extensive TV coverage of the flame-high fire that damaged a great deal of the soaring 856-year-old religious monument.

Newspaper coverage of the fire toured some of its grand history. It was where Henry VI was crowned and Napoleon became emperor.

A woman resident of Paris wrote that a few hours into the fire, French TV news was running everything from clips of Francois Mitterrand’s funeral to scenes from a movie version of Victor Hugo’s “Hunchback of Notre-Dame.”

She offered this description of the historic monument that sits in the middle of the city, walking distance from practically everywhere, on the bank of the river that divides the city.

She wrote, “residents might not have fully realized it until Monday, but I think it reassured them to know that at the heart of their highly planned city was someplace entirely non-rational. Notre-Dame’s hulking, Gothic presence has long suggested that there is something mysterious and unknowable at the center of it all.”

The grand architectural landmark survived two world wars but in one afternoon, quickly flamed into an expensive, decades-long major renovation project.

And before the end of the day, money pledges were pouring in.

In 1977, we flew from city to city in Asia.

In Tokyo, our hotel room was slightly higher than the adjacent office building.

We were fascinated to see the workers each day take an exercise break in formation on the roof of the other facility.

On the weekend, now alone, I watched a two-hour special featuring neurosurgeon Dr. Sanjay Gupta visiting three destinations in his new CNN series “Chasing Life.”

He reported on the frantic, stressful and crowded lifestyles that are causing massive anxiety throughout Japan.

Workers still participate in exercise breaks.

But millions of them are required to work overtime — some as much as 65 hours a week – as the nation rushes daily to win expansive, economic progress.

Japan’s decades-old bullet trains are packed with weary, worried passengers trying to keep up with the accelerated pace their employers expect of them.

But the frenzy that dominates the lives of the residents leads to high suicide rates, with a number of people diving from metropolitan skyscrapers.

Dr. Gupta visited Okinawa, which has been called “Land of Immortals,” due to the fact that people there live longer than the average lifespan.

He was treated by a blind acupuncturist and applauded a 97-year-old dancer who moves like a teenager.

His third destination was India, where he received an unconventional massage using feet.

The series also includes visits to Bolivia, Italy and Turkey, plus Norway, which is called “The happiest country in the world.”

He told an interviewer from OprahMag.com that “he wanted to find out how a country that’s totally plunged in darkness for half of the year could be one of the most joyous places in the world. I think that’s part of the secret, though. The fact that people there have to overcome things every day, like outside elements, that tends to give them a higher level of joy when they can conquer their challenges.”

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