So much has gone up in smoke. Unprecedented wildfires in the American West followed a year of devastating wildfires in Australia and–of all places–the Amazonian rainforests. Coupled with global flare-ups of COVID and race-related conflicts, it seems that the world is very much ‘on fire.’
When deadwood builds up, conditions are ripe for out-of-control conflagration. Traditional peoples in Australia and the Americas had an intimate relationship with the natural world around them, and they often employed fire—now known as cultural burning—to keep fuel levels low and increase the land’s fertility.
Beyond these benefits, traditional peoples have long recognized Fire’s spiritual value: as the energy of Heart, it binds us to each other and the natural world around us. Sitting around the fire, our ancestors shared what was important in their lives and aligned themselves with time-tested wisdom. An important part of that wisdom included how to live in balance with the natural world that was—and still is—our ultimate “home.”
In modern times, we’ve come to favor comfort and predictability over wisdom. We still use fire, but in very controlled ways: fire generates electricity, powers our vehicles, and speeds our communications. Where we once gathered around fire’s primal form to connect with the rich, wordless mystery that binds us to each other and the world, we are now inclined to sit before the cool glow of a fluorescent screen and traffic in something called ‘information.’ This poor substitute for real connection leaves us feeling isolated, lost, and increasingly fearful.
I grieve for the loses from the wildfires in Australia, the Amazon, and the U.S.. I grieve for those who have suffered from the ‘fires’ of racial unrest or the fevers of COVID. And yet the only real antidote is more fire: discovering our deep Heart-connection with each other despite our differences and finding our ‘right relationship’ with the natural world.
Once we begin to feel those deep connections, we understand the essential sacredness of the world. Honoring that sacredness, seeing ourselves more humbly as just part of the fabric of the living world, we may well find there is less to be burned away.