Fire is a beautiful enigma. In the two campouts I’ve had in the last two weeks, I couldn’t help but notice how we’re attracted to the fireplace like moths are to light. In these campouts, the campfire didn’t provide much light or warmth, but some recess in my consciousness was deeply comforted by the hypnosis of these dancing flames.
Why though? What draws us to fire so strongly? What magnetizes us about these kindling embers? I racked my brain and scoured the internet to find the answer to this question, but guess what, nobody really knows.
Maybe it’s the inner rebellious teenager finally getting a chance to play and build a fire after years of my parents distancing me from it (Hey, I didn’t know you shouldn’t hose down a cup filled petrol that’s burning). Maybe the significance of it is built into us by what it did for us as a species through social bonding, the light it gave us, the warmth it provided, and the food that got infinitely more appetizing because of it.
In just these two campouts I experienced strangers forming meaningful connections, old scars healing, conversations ranging from the meaning of it all to Korean ghost stories, and how beautiful Comfortably Numb by Pink Floyd is in front of a fireplace.
A small fire represents all of those things— how far we’ve come from the lands we first awoke, all the stories and ideas that were exchanged around it that shaped our civilizations, the forests it burned down and bloomed fertile grounds for agriculture, and the tasty steaks cooked on it.
After all this puzzling over why we’re basically fire moths, here’s the best answer I can give you—
Frank Herbert said, “The mystery of life isn't a problem to solve, but a reality to experience.” I believe that fire in some small way is synonymous with life itself. It is born, it grows, sometimes it creates things like the civilizations we have created today or burns beautiful things like the Library of Alexandria to the ground, and then it ceases to exist— it turns to dust, like life itself.
So, the mystery of fire isn't a problem to solve, but a reality to experience.