Thoughts On Fire

Not sure if this has been discussed at all, but I just had me a harebrained little thought…

Many elements have been cited, mainly agriculture, as contributing to humankind’s fall from nature. But what of our mastery of fire? My dad has been a firefighter for 30 years, so I know through his experience that flame is one of the most dangerous yet integral elements of modern society. A force that was once considered beautiful sacred magic has now been made a pawn in the destruction of humanity.

I still consider fire very sacred. Not sure what exactly is wrong with me, I guess I’m what one would call a pyromaniac, but I would never go out and just burn things or people. The power of flame terrifies me, it haunts my darkest nightmares, and burning is a terrible way to go. I’ve always feared such a thing happening to my dad on a call, and I thank God every day that my family has survived every close call. I seem to be a magnet for house-fires.

Yet this element has fascinated me ever since I was a small child, long before I understood the true power, danger, and value of combustion. I always knew the beauty and sacredness. If I could have any one superpower, it would be pyrokinesis to bend the flames and shield my loved ones from the danger of burning. The last damn superpower some big-headed primates need.

But fire is everywhere in our modern society, vital to so many basic processes and implicit in so much death and pain. From scaring away more sensible predators to barbecuing mammoth meat, from firing clay, similar to how Earth’s warm heart morphs stone, to the basic alchemy of alloying bronze, fire is necessary to many of even our most primitive skills. But it was harder to create and wield back then, still considered sacred and dangerous, a deadly power if abused. It never stopped being deadly though.

Over time, flame lost its holiness. It became easier to ignite, contain, amplify, and extinguish. Now factories, mills, and power plants have burned through who knows how many bonfires of fuel, choking the skies with smoke and polluting everything else with their manufactured junk. Bunsen burners brewing toxic synthetic concoctions, space shuttles running on rocket fuel sent to dump more trash in space, fire-forged metal firearms igniting gunpowder to launch bullets, etc. Not that I’m anti-gun; everyone else has one, gotta even the playing field.

And getting shot is much more merciful than the brazen bull. Oh yeah, after us apes discovered fire, it didn’t take long for us to start burning up. Especially each other, though some are into self-immolation, but usually it’s all just an awful accident. From the first unfortunate fellow that burned to death to a spill or a slip at the steel mill here in town, accidents always happen. While our mastery over fire may be great, the risk of disaster increases with temperature and frequent exposure, and humans will never be fireproof. All the science in the world can’t put the fire department out of business.

Where did this mastery of/slavery to fire begin? How much control is too much? Where should it end? How do you respect this vital, beautiful, dangerous element?