…there are different reasons for admiring ruins. We need not dwell on them only to vindicate ourselves. We can dwell on them also to vindicate a notion of humanity. We preserve them to illustrate not divine purposes but human purposes. They are proof of the astonishing multiplicity of answers to life’s questions that have been created by our tirelessly self-interpreting kind. We restore them and we display them as a cosmopolitan way of regarding particularities, as an expression of our humane respect for the resourcefulness of the spirit over time. We imbue them with meanings that their makers could not have grasped, except perhaps in places such as Palmyra. Where others saw truth, we see beauty—but the beauty is not merely formal. What a spiritual accomplishment it is, to cherish—and in the case of Khaled al-Assad, to die for—the vestiges of a faith in which one does not believe.
Leon Wieseltier, “The Rubble of Palmyra”, The Atlantic (4 September 2015) [http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/09/rubble-palmyra-syria-isis/403921/]