Fire is life. Fire moves and breathes. Fire is alive. Fire is warmth. Fire purifies. Fire burns.
Making fire is magical; a sacred experience that requires much practise and patience. In the process of teaching my daughter to build a fire, I continue to learn from the fire as to how it is to be built. Every fire is different and, depending on its context for being built, requires different focus, approach, respect.
There are many different ways for a fire to come to life. Every way, fire needs fuel, time to come into being, space to breathe and to grow. Fire cannot be forced; if it is desired, fire desires its nourishing, it cannot simply be acquired.
Today, my daughter and I built a fire together. It was windy by the lake, so we were mindful of the wind. We had sufficient fuel, paper and wood. She had chopped, with delicate precision, some pieces of wood into kindling. The fuel was placed in a way so as to protect the flame from the wind and allow sufficient space for it to breathe. To start with, the fire struggled to find its way; such is the nature of new life. Renner and D’Souza mention, in their book Not Knowing, that when things don’t quite work out the way we would like them to our anxious tendency can be to ‘increase our sense of control and relieve our sense of powerlessness.’1
For a minute I was distracted, a frivolous moment while the fire was just finding its heat, its integrity. There’s a feeling that arises in me when a fire begins to die, when the flame flickers to nothing and only smoking embers remain to prove the presence of something that is almost gone. The smoke in my face is ridicule, insult to the injury of a project on the verge of failure. It’s peculiar that with the bothersome smoke, humiliating feelings of shame arise. How could I not build a fire to a successful burning?
Dying embers need not be a deterrent, neither wind nor rain. Humility is essential in the building of a fire. A ‘grasp for certainty’2, as control has been referred to, is not interpretable by fire. A fire will offer itself to good manners and respect. We opened the fire, added fuel and created space for it to breathe. Then, a focused burst of blown breath. The flame winded to life, gathered strength and arose. Today, I learned in a new way of the upward desire of fire, how its flames reach upward for more. It was hot, the fire and it burned with success.
I was going to write about Finisterre, the end of the earth, what’s at the edge and the ‘great beyond’. Perhaps, for another time. Instead, I prefer fire as the subject of focus for this day. And, the sun.
The sun was shining on the fire, this cold day. While it was, it was a happy and playful fire; and, it wasn’t long until it was no longer needed. It fizzled out, after a smoky fight for life. All that was left was the sun shining, ‘this rather undistinguished medium-sized star called a yellow dwarf, one of the 400 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy.’3Our time with the sun is limited each day, too. Such a powerful source of energy, beckoning our dependence burning ‘637 million tonnes of hydrogen to create 632 million tonnes of helium while releasing some 386 billion billion megawatts – the energy equivalent of 1 million 10-megaton hydrogen bombs.’4 The sun, is a powerful thing and, as life has shown both gives life and takes it away. I have known the sunshine personally, deeply. What happens then, when the sun is gone?
We each have within us the potential of fire and the sunshine, for good and terrible evil. Mindful of his context and care by presence and voice for those who are oppressed, the words of Jesus resonate, firing the imagination, ‘Love one another as I have loved you.’5 May these sparks of life fuel the flame of our souls in a time of such seemingly unrelenting narcissism. Maranatha.
- Renner, Diana and Steven D’Souza. Not Knowing: The Art of Turning Uncertainty into Opportunity.New York, New York: LID Publishing Limited, 2015, 118.
- Not Knowing, 188.
- Suzuki, David. The Sacred Balance: Rediscovering Our Place in Nature. Vancouver/Toronto: Greystone Books (The Douglas and McIntyre Publishing Group), 115.
- The Sacred Balance, 115
- John 13:34, New International Version.