As far back as I can remember, I have always loved watching things burn. Even now, I find myself mesmerized by the dancing of the flames in a jiko (charcoal brazier) or in a fireplace, drawn in by the heat and the knowledge of the immense power breathing gently in that confine. In fact, lighting up a stack of wood on those cold mid-year months is something of a guilty pleasure, although I often pretend to go about the task grudgingly.
Every so often, when I am frustrated for some reason I cannot yet fathom, or whenever I feel crowded, I go through my things; old notebooks, collected business cards and sundry scraps of paper like receipts, bank statements and such, which have my thoughts and then some written on them. Rummaging through these, I come across a few old gems that bring a smile or a crease to my face. I am not one for sentiment, though, especially as far as physical belongings are concerned.
So, I gather all these up and set them ablaze. Slowly, I rip the pages apart from their spines and lay them gently on the compost heap. I only ever need one match. The whoosh of the phosphorous is music to my ears, the flame, a miniature brilliant sunset. I set one page dancing to its gray death, and slowly add the other pages, taking it all in, squinting but never looking away. I immensely enjoy the searing of the bright ephemeral paper flames on my skin. Then it is all done and I am all the lighter.
I am not a pyromaniac, no. The process of clearing up, cleaning up and getting rid of the at-first important things we seem to gather over the course of our days is liberating. I actually look forward to it. It may be that this is a manifestation of my underlying mindset, the tangible representation of a never-ending mental catharsis. This could also explain why I do not particularly mind crashing my computer every so often and then having to re-format the hard drive. The first time this happened, I was deflated. I had lost two-years worth of important data. How was I going to live without my music, my videos and my books?
Barely three months later I had reacquired most of the information and new music, new videos and new books. The most absurd thing was that I was just fine in those blank months with a little more to stare at than a new operating system, Ubuntu 12.04 at the time. Maybe this had to happen. I had been telling myself for the longest time how one day I would learn Linux, invariably taking the easy way out, live-booting and feeling smug about it, knowing there was Windows to fall back on. Now there was no going back. There was nothing to go back to. Like a volcano-scorched plain, there were seeds waiting to germinate beneath the ashes, unseen, biding their time. Tabula rasa.
Perhaps this is the greatest metaphor of fire: change, newness, growth by death, destruction to rebuild. Fire cauterizes, purifies, hardens, softens. Say what you may, but fire is a singularly altering force of nature. The word ‘fire’ connotes ambition and drive, desire and longing, and these are not far removed from what an actual fire does. And similarly, these things do achieve the same results as an inferno, sometimes in negative ways. This could be its allure, fire; dancing with death, as it were. Death, after all, is the ultimate change. Maybe this is why fire entices so much: its ability to change. Reflections of life are in the flashes, the implications of metamorphoses. Everything is aimed at a change, everything is a fire.