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How to Fight Fright with Fire

Fire is the life of the party. Have you ever looked into embers glowing, ebbing, flickering, and downright communicating with you in an outdoor fire pit? Consuming, breathing, moving, everything but ‘self-aware’, the extraordinary chemical reaction between oxygen and fuel that happens here could very well define my own presence on this planet in the most base form. But a simple spark, like a whisper ignited by fear, flares to a wildfire a creative force kindled by change and fed by endurance. But when the flame is satiated new growth can begin – leaving burnished memories in the afterglow.

The heat was overwhelming, so we moved back from the flames and the heat cast by the metal fire-ring, hunkering down respectfully some feet away. It flickered and glowed and murmured to us; Mesmerizing, tantalizing, synchronizing our thoughts together in those moments that stretched between eventide and starlight. When had the banter and light laughter stopped? It was so peaceful, so calm. As the darkness deepened, night chill set in, and one by one everyone left for the warmth of indoors and bed. 

Bucket after bucket of water doused embers that glowed as if to mirror a star cluster in Orion’s nebula. And yet, they continued to glow. In fact, as the steam hissed and swirled inside the steel pit, those embers flared even brighter, rebels to the idea of death by dousing. Out came the garden hose in a fight to the death until the flames succumbed their afterglow in a trailing sigh of smoke.

But it was not over. For days, Fire hid within the coals and embers deep beneath the soaked ashes. Like a magic dragon, it puffed and wafted, hissing vengeance softly under its smoky breath, safely contained within the confines of its metal fire-ring.

Like a magic dragon, the is not always safely contained. It waits to be rekindled, to rage and burn and evade the watchful eyes of people. Wildfires are dragons that continue to smolder underground long after they have been extinguished; thriving and growing as it consumes roots and organics with its breath rising and falling in the heave of the land. For miles it creeps along, hidden below the earth and biding its time to surface once again. 

Have you noticed how fear seems to mimic fire? It simmers softly under the coals of doused emotions. Repressed feelings arising from unresolved conflict ignite it. Fear murmurs and hisses at change, reacting to others’ emotions and feeding the fire of discontent until it blazes with an unbecoming fury. Left too long in an environment of chaos and disinformation, folks become desperate for control – over their health, work, relationships, even neighbors – and fright, flight and fight become as instinctive as wildfire.

Our world burned with the disorder of pandemic protocols that overwhelmed our economy. Humans, disoriented by distancing and hidden identities struggled under the stress of politesse drenched in distrust and distaste. People murmur and world leaders placate and palavers propagate. Yet, there is beauty that is born in the ashes of dread, and the magic dragon can change. Burned can become burnished, and the aftermath becomes an afterglow. Folks are reaching out to help others in distress; offering food, financial deferment and encouragement, and reconnecting with neighbors and family. A new fashion has even risen to the forefront; masks have become a mascot to the madness that affects every country, color, creed, and culture during this time of world pandemic.

there is beauty that is born from the ashes of dread

The new norm is the very thing our culture used to shun – masks that mask our identities along with naked lips and unshaven chins. Made by privateers, this aspect of capitalism is thriving in remarkably creative ways! So, three cheers to the human nature that pulls the magic dragon from its lair and digs deep to douse the fire. And cheers to those to wear the mask to save the dignity of their neighbor and placate their fear, and cheers to those who feel muzzled, muted, or stifled – and call it out. Embrace the change, for we are united and we are equal and we are strong.

At the end of the day, may we say that we are simply humankind. The most powerful force on earth is fired by love, and not by revenge or control. Consider how to calm and breathe, meditate, read or nap when you feel fired up. Acknowledge the dragon and even embrace the burnishing that fire has made of your soul. Country, color, creed and culture, we are made to love each other. We’ve proven it over centuries of survival: love lasts. That’s the true life of the party, and we are all invited.