Flames burn, not quite silently, but often quietly. The vibrant changing colors and shifting outline of each flicker ensures that eyes instinctively seek it out. Animals, human and other, are drawn towards it almost as often as they are repelled by it. When otherwise dark, even a tiny flame can guide us and give us comfort. Large fires intimidate and scare us with thoughts of powerful destruction. In an era of modern technology, why does one of the most basic elements thrill and enchant us as much now as ever?
Fire plays a starring role in our written history as well as our daily lives. A quick search on Google for "fire quotes" yields over 106 Million responses. The use of "fire" often means passion, drive, or urgency. While often accorded respect as a positive attribute, we can also see the "danger" lurking just below the surface of these qualities. The implication is clear, "having a fire burning within" can lead to wonderful things, or it can cause destruction. Even metaphorically, dealing with fire requires proper care.
Nothing splendid was ever created in cold blood. Heat is required to forge anything. Every great accomplishment is the story of a flaming heart.
~Arnold H. Glasow
Is it a wonder then, that fire plays such a role in our view of love? We constantly espouse our desire for true love, in tandem with our pained cries from each broken heart. Just as with fire, love is powerful; life-sustaining. It is simultaneously, threatening and possibly catastrophic in its ability to destroy that which we rely on. There is simply no possibility to guarantee the safety of a large fire, nor a large love. To be a firefighter is to be the epitome of courageous; facing a burning inferno a hero's job worthy of medals and public recognition regardless of outcome. Yet, few accolades are granted the millions of people every day who willingly open their heart to new love despite the inherent risks. Instead, we judge these daredevils only by the results of their courage. We applaud when a loving couple marries and we congratulate them on the success of their mission. Yet we generally have only dismay for a sad person nursing a broken heart after seeking true love with the wrong person. Why do we not heap praise upon one who is willing to chance such despair in the hopes of achieving greatness? Why do we not celebrate genuine seekers of love? Why should they not wear their broken heart as a meaningful medal? Perhaps each should signify the valor and effort necessary to open a heart wide. Certainly the path of love is fraught with hidden obstacles capable of destroying anyone along the way. It requires a brave, strong soul to prevail.
Young love is a flame; very pretty, often very hot and fierce, but still only light and flickering. The love of the older and disciplined heart is as coals, deep-burning, unquenchable.
~Henry Ward Beecher
This week, as families around the world light their candles to celebrate Hanukkah, my wish is that we all take a moment to recognize the brave people in our world who bless us with determined actions and graceful love. Let us be respectful of the inherent power of love and fire and give us strength enough to allow both to reside within our hearts.
At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.