We Are Not in the Golden Age of Staring at Fire

People say the fire is good. I do not want to be that one who says the fire is not good. You know that one: Fire is so stupid and worthless, he says, I don't even use fire. I eat my meat raw, and I certainly don't have time to stare into flames.

I like staring into the fire. The sun goes down, the insects sing, the moon rises—and there is the fire, burning, orange. The flames licking like tongues, or possibly they genuinely are tongues, flaring out of otherwise invisible mouths of the spirit world. But I do not hear or understand their language, no matter how long I stare. I am uncomprehending.

Now, though, it seems as if everyone wants to impute something greater to the fire. They cannot stop talking about it. Do you remember when that big log burned through in the middle and crashed down? All those sparks rushing upward at once! Or earlier when the wind got into the middle of it, and the fire guttered and rattled, and the smoke was thrown in everyone's faces?

I do remember that, but why do we have to talk about it? Fire is for staring at. People used to understand that the fire-staring was simply fire-staring. Nobody tried to claim we were in a golden age of fire. Today's flames are no brighter. The sparks don't soar any higher. But people blather on and on.

It's not about the uselessness of it. Of course it is useless. You could be thinking of ways to distract the cave bear tomorrow, so that your comrades can stab it with their spears. You could be chipping new flints to make the spear points. Or propitiating the God of the Bears. But you stare into the fire.

I certainly do. The fire is warm on my eyeballs; I barely blink. The deep white-orange pulse in the heart of the coals beats, now steadily, now irregularly. See? Now I am falling into this trap, too. The trap of talking about the fire. Enough idle discussion. Stare. Be still. The moon is transiting the sky. There are the flames, leaping. Stare at them. It is what we do.

[Gif via YouTube]