Day 27: Set something on fire.

There is an elegant beauty in a flame.

A balletic movement, conjured forth by the slightest of breezes. Nothing can transfix a man’s attention more than the soft, slight, dance of the flame. It matters not if the flame is small, like the one that perches so delicately atop a candle, the flame that darts and sways to avoid the fatal breath of wind that will extinguish it. It doesn’t even matter if the flame is large, the hungry power that dwells within the flame, the power that grows, tall and strong until it can consume a building, a forest, a national park.

Since the dawn of man’s relationship with fire, we have remained wary. Early man must have learnt very quickly of the perils that surrounded the flame, feeling it’s blistering bite on their fragile skin. Yet they learnt to tame it, to use its destructive power to cook their food, to heat their caves, to keep them alive when the ice came, a power that had long been known to sap the very life from a man’s bones. They found the perfect weapon, shield, faith to keep them safe.

We adore fire as a species. The English have a festival, every autumn, in which we set fires to recognise the fact that our seat power was very nearly destroyed. The Americans, every July, launch fire into the sky, almost as if they are fighting the sky itself, as is an American’s wont when they can’t find anybody else to fight against. The Celts literally had festivals for fire. Beltane, Samhain, Imbolc and Lughnasadh, to mark the turning of the seasons.

Think of all the things that we describe as fire. The fires of passion, fires of fury, fires of hatred, all of them burning deep within our souls. Without fire, we are a nothing species. We are another dumb beast. We are not the best hunters without the assistance of fire. The only reason we can even be considered anywhere near the top of the food chain is due to our tools and the blessing of flame.

There is but one true faith. That is the flame. The fire that burns within us all. The fire that one sees, that one feels, that one allows to burn them, scouring through them until the flames of righteousness can escape.

In space, the number one enemy is fire. If there is a fire in a rocket, in a shuttle, in a space station, then it is disaster. Under the sea, in a submarine, a fire is the worst thing imaginable. Even on land, with resources to fight the fire, we are afraid. We created a special breed of person, heroes in their own right, to fight an enemy that species-wide we recognise as being more aggressive, more powerful and more deadly than any of us individually. We created the firefighter.

A pyromaniac, that is one who loves the fire, feels themselves dancing along to the rhythm of the pulsing flame, grow up to become one of two things. An arsonist, or a fireman. As a species, we are all pyromaniacs, adoring the flame even as we remain wary. So I put it to you. Are you an arsonist, or a fireman?

Feel the Burn, Introduction, by Gerhardt Schmitt. Intact pages found in the wreckage of 14 Gillespie Place.

The Idiot in Tin Foil


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