The Fire Next Time: The Precious Opportunity of Climate Change

We are in the process of burning ourselves and many of the beings on Earth right out of existence. Overwhelming. Unbelievable. Wildly inconvenient. Weirdly difficult to take in. But true. We are.

The fire, too slowly for our senses to note, warms and warms and warms some more. We could lower the flame, but we don't. And a part of each one of us must wonder why we don't. Perhaps the answers are elusive because we are asking the wrong question. So, here's one that I haven't seen asked before...

"How is the relationship with your Holy Fire going?"

A couple things before you answer:

1) "Holy Fire" doesn't necessarily have to do with anything religious or spiritual. It is automatically generated by your care and longing. I use the word "automatically" in the literal sense; something that happens with or without your consent. It is just there, inside of you - this deep, deep caring that generates deeply felt aliveness - and you can't expunge it even if you try.

2) I am making a declaration that may or may not be true: "Every human being possesses Holy Fire. Every human being burns with the brightness of the Big Bang from which we ultimately descend."

Now. Okay. You may say that you agree or that you disagree with my declarations, but that, in any case, this "burning caring" is, at best, elusive. It may arise at special moments in special circumstances, but then it cools right back down or, perhaps, seems to disappear altogether. In any case it is more the exception than the rule.

To this I say...well, let's keep this family friendly...I say, "bull-hockey". It never cools. It's there burning phosphorescently at this very moment. Your "phosphorescence" may possess a calm/glowing quality or, alternatively, an exuberant/raucous expression. It likely varies in time and place. It is never absent

So...what happened? This is an old story. Almost every one of us learned from an early age to "cool that fire down", to modulate it, to temper it. From our families, from our schools, from the whole wide world. There were just way too many pitfalls awaiting if we did not. Anywhere that humans knowingly or unknowingly conspire to limit or control each other's inherent aliveness, naked expressions of Holy Fire tend to be seen as threatening.

For Holy Fire not only passionately expresses, "I love "this, that and the other", but also moves us to declare, "Wait a second! This does not work. This is not okay. This shall not stand!"

So...that's what happened. To almost all of us. To the "perpetrators" and "victims" alike. We learned, under conditions ranging from fairly benign to horrifically un-benign, to, at best, find selected times and places to feel and express our soul's deep longing.

The results of this comprehensive fire suppression policy are legion, but here are two of the most significant:

1) We feel much, much less alive. Juiced. Joyful. This is a great pity. As it is, the precious gift of our time on this planet is vanishingly short; an eye-blink of an eye-blink. To walk around damping down our deepest aliveness is the definition of tragic.

2) This fire, that can not be made "not to exist", will express itself come hell or high water; if not through passionate aliveness, it will seek other channels. And, collectively speaking, climate change is one of the channels it is finding.

"Ha!" you say, "That's just ridiculous!"


When you boil it all down, what we're talking about here is And we humans, perhaps unique to all beings on Earth, possess a continually unfolding choice: We can employ our God-given and/or biologically given (as you prefer) fire in either generative or degenerative manners.

Our souls (beings, you prefer) long for the "generative" path; to care for others as we would care for ourselves; to steward and protect those that are at the mercy of our choices - children and animals come to mind; to build and create that which sustains and nourishes well-being. Simply put - To love.

Only one particular type of human being is able to sustain such generative choice-making over the long haul. This type of human being is called an "adult".

I am not speaking chronologically. Attaining adulthood has very little to do with being 18 or 21 or 75 for that matter. Being an adult means, simply, maturing beyond adolescence.

An adolescent famously wields power for the sake of wielding power. That is how it should be. An adolescent is not very interested in limits or restraint. He or she is in discovery mode. Freedom and unbridled expression rule the day - A lot of Holy Fire there!

Most adolescents eventually travel one of two paths: 1) They tame their fire by tamping it down and learn to bring it out only for those specially marked occasions. 2) They burn up: Addiction, injury, death, brutality toward self or others.

There is a third way; one which our world, deeply mired in its own collective adolescence, has largely forgotten. The third path is to become that noble and precious creature; an adult human being.

Such a creature has been blessed to emerge from the fundamental isolation of the adolescent mind. She understands that she is part of a world woven together (or not) by relationships. He sees that his life can nourish other beings, human and non-human alike. He knows, in turn, that their lives nourish his own, both body and soul. She feels the greater pulse of life and understands both the restraints and responsibilities of taking part.

The Holy Fire of the adult human being tends toward this sense of interconnectedness and his choices are informed by it. It is not always a "walk in the park". Courage and wisdom and compassion are required in deep measure. This is part and parcel of maturity.

So. Here we are. The continued existence of even a semblance of our world-as-we-know-it hinges on our collective ability to grow up. In many traditional societies, the initiation rituals that ushered young adolescents toward adulthood involved elements of ordeal. It seems that the immature, more self-centered mind does not give way without a fight! Successful passage births a "new seeing" of all beings - yes including the animals, including the rivers and trees and stones - as valued relationships.

Perhaps our self-induced climate crisis can yet act as such an initiatory ordeal. Perhaps the just-getting-started droughts, storms and climate-exacerbated geo-political disasters can penetrate our adolescent minds, fascinated with acquisition and accumulation as they are.

To be honest, I am not overly hopeful. Human beings in positions of great power throw snowballs in Congress and regurgitate tired, vacuous talking points. Most of the rest of us hypnotically march in business-as-usual lockstep, procreating and purchasing as we go.

I would love to be surprised, to participate in a collective turning toward that which truly nourishes.

Meanwhile we burn.