I have a fascination with fire. The way the flames lisp through the air, tumble and turn and throw themselves to and fro. I read poetry at an open mic back in March or April, and I started with the same words–some echoes of my lines include “This is where it burns / all the flames / fighting their holy wars / let me smolder among them” and “Samson is burning at the broken pillars / limestone capsules and locks of hair / arms shriveled, torso chiseled / too far from marble, turned to dust.” But fire is fire, and words can’t tame any flame.
Certain songs make me think of fire, too. Jewel’s “Kiss the Flame” immediately comes to mind, as does Florence + the Machine “Rabbit Heart,” which I don’t think mentions fire at all. So does Sixpence None the Richer’s “Kosovo.” The flames burn through the melodies.
So it’s only natural I should want to meet the world in fire.
Except the fire I foresee isn’t a purely destructive force. It’s no wildfire or flamethrower or conflagration. Even the word holocaust, with all its incendiary histories, hardly comes close–and yet, perhaps more than other words, it comes closest: the word itself means “wholly burned,” and isn’t that what I foresee, what I dream, what I desire?
It sounds strange to say I want to see the world burn, it sounds like the Joker’s angst and teen ambition rolled up in only a few words, but there’s something symbolic and mystical in fire. There’s a Kabbalistic belief that there’s a spark of God in every being, and it’s through uplifting these tiny flames and helping them burn brighter that we return to God.
God could not be fire. Fire is a construct of our world, combustion is merely physics and chemistry, and the mathematical models of symmetry at the core of the reaction. But God lies beyond all these things. Yet stars are fire, light is fire, and if these entities even basely echo God’s wonder, then isn’t the comparison a fitting one?
When I say I want to see the world burn, I mean I want to see God brought down to earth. In Genesis we’re told God made humankind in his image, but God is ethereal, non-physical, beyond and above notions of biology and gender. So how, we ask, can we be made in his image? My answer is simple, but powerful: we carry the potential to be gods in each of us, not simply in our possession of divinity, but our potential.
Like God, we can both create and destroy.
So when I say I want to see God brought down to earth, I mean I want to see these sparks start to erupt, I mean I want to see the beauty in our destruction and recreation.
God made this world and entrusted it to us. And what have we done? We’ve built institutions of oppression, defiled the earth, and dessicated our basic humanity.
God is vengeful, and so I want to be vengeful. I want to topple the towers of power and cause the insufferable to suffer. I want to see them burn. I want to burn with them. Because this fire is passion, and with these hands, this passion is purpose.
The pursuit of social justice is the closest to fire-starter I’ve come, and it’s a worthy path to follow: unchaining the masses, leading them from the cave, letting them see the sun.
Another fire. And it drives me forward.
Some people ask what I’d do if I had nothing to do, but that’s the wrong question to ask, isn’t it? Because if there were nothing left to do, we’d all be saplings pushing up from the ashes of our oblivion, and we’re not there yet. Before we can grow, first we must die.
So instead I see the truth, these glimpses of salvation lingering in the dormant sparks we carry, these sparks waiting for a charge to start to burn, to catch fire and burn through our hearts and deep into our souls. There we can start to reshape the world, one fire at a time.
It’s what drives me to write about LGBT rights and poverty, homelessness and education. It drives me to volunteer, to serve, to raise awareness about injustice everywhere.
So here I stand, here I burn. Won’t you burn with me?