Wildfire

“The world is on fire,” said a priest this morning. An agent of spiritual renewal, mentioning our age of social ruins. Words spoken as matter-of-fact, with an air of objectivity and a heavy blanket of sorrow. 

Suffocating.

Sobering.

Solemn.

The “chance” timing of current events, paired with Pentecostal celebrations, is not lost on me. Kismet screams for recognition, while our spinning nation cycles on, muffling its ears to the roar. 

Yes, our world IS on fire. 

Flames of fear marching down the streets, embodied by boots, tanks, and gruff instructions. Bright flashes of panic dashing through community structures, grabbing what brings short-term stability to soothe the searing burn of centuries of inequality. (Or perhaps, a bit of ardent opportunists taking advantage of an already inflamed situation.)

Smoldering wounds of injustice, heat up shards of grief as glowing, shattered glass rains down in response. We remember why. We recall his lungs on fire, as the last of their life-giving breath was snuffed from his body, which carried the burden of being black.

This world is definitely on fire.

Distressed hearts burn, with trauma from generations of enduring suspicious glances, seeing purses clutched a bit closer to the chest and hearing car doors quickly lock as they walk past on legs of color. Exhausted minds, crackling with steam that begs to be released, are fatigued by the unending, meticulous calculations on how to best drive, jog, walk home, and sleep in their own beds. 

Combustible communities with explosive strains ignite heat that begins to flank, the inevitable result of a rotting foundation that frames our country. Vulnerable attempts to hold space, to unite people, to “keep the peace” flicker and fade. Like thin rubber loops stretched taut past their max, the force of stress snaps back in our faces as we split…startled, bruised, disbanded.

Angry words shouted past one another, banging off the surrounding brick walls of city buildings and falling back to the concrete ground. Loud clangs of frustration, helplessness and ire, hail down on impervious hearts. Primal communication, powerless to bring change in such a heightened atmosphere and unable to elevate our humanity – our hearts – to the same level as our tension.

Indeed, the world is on fire, but oh, how I crave a second sort of blaze!

These bodies on fire….families, friends, neighborhoods…we are sloughing off embers of obsolete systems. Do we possess the courage for our overdue confrontation of the hideous kindling that has fueled this swaggering nation? (One, that’s also curiously susceptible to blind spots and hot feelings of superiority.)

There are novel (yet age-old) thoughts to be considered and unfamiliar solutions to explore while we tackle our stale problems. Like shedding the constraints of dead skin we have long outgrown, we can adopt an unknown (but promising) way of being. There’s freedom in this molting, relinquishing the established for the essential. Healthy skin grows; new tissues flourish.

Encompassing fire, with the power to destroy, but the potential to purify – how can you regenerate us?

“Not all fire is bad,” I’m told. That is, well…when it’s in a different context…when it’s prescribed, when it occurs within defined parameters, when it’s controlled. Sparks are charming when we see them dance, small and contained….not so much when they engulf and consume, charring the threads of common connection.

Natural fires are too wild, too unpredictable, too strong, too dangerous. Yet, here we are – a forest of people, going up in flames. Our scorched earth matching our simmering hearts. Can fresh ways of life be seeded into this fertilized soil that awaits us on the other side?

If you’re not paying attention to the shifting winds, fire gets away from you. Controlling wind, which only intensifies with pressure and friction, is useless. We can curse these gusting gales of instability or consider their source. Respect the wind; listen to its howl. This inferno needs to breathe. 

Whether wild or controlled, fire can revive. With this blaze, let’s finally (hopefully!) – painstakingly – begin anew at long last.

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