Fighting Fire with Fire

Fighting Fire with Fire

In writing this post, I hope that my words are as inflammatory as they sound in my head. That they do justice to the fire elemental. Because there isn’t any sort of like justice in the world right about now.

I think I was in the fifth grade or so when I decided I wasn’t going to stand up for the pledge of allegiance because I could see with my own eyes that there wasn’t “freedom and justice for all,” especially in my Southern hometown (in the United States). The teacher came over, grabbed me by the arm, and tried yanking me out of my seat. But I was prepared for the assault. I had locked my feet in the rungs of the book holder underneath the seat and the teacher couldn’t budge me. She finally gave up after a few hard yanks. Next, a classmate got up right in my face, screaming at me that “his daddy fought for freedom” and that I should get up. I could feel his spit hitting my face as he screamed at me. Finally, the teacher said that the class should just ignore me and I did not stand up for the pledge the rest of the year. And yet my early act of social resistance had zero effect. My voice, like so many others, wasn’t heard. I was just as invisible as those I was standing up for.

At the time, I didn’t realise I was also trying to stand up for myself. Because as a woman, I have been silenced. I have been silenced as a child, I’ve been silenced in regards to my own identity, I’ve been silenced via gender stereotypes, I’ve been silenced in my attempts to get decent medical care, in getting my vehicle fixed, in the workplace, and I have been so conditioned to the process that even though I considered myself an outspoken activist, I never knew I didn’t have a voice and that I wasn’t being heard.

But now the fire within me has begun to rage against the silence. With all the fury of fiery middle age hormones that are being transmuted and distilled. And I don’t give a rat’s donkey companion about being silent. About keeping my head down. About not rocking the boat. About making sure I’m not being annoying or pushy or demanding or anything else that has been fed to women like me all over the world. I’m too old to care about that pile of sexist cow manure.

And so I am seething. Seething at a world where the violence against the George Floyds of the world is still allowed to occur. Seething at a world where women can be murdered by their loved ones, and they walk free.

And I am angry at humanity in general, including myself. That fire is the fiercest of all. And it’s so diffuse that it’s hard to channel it into change. Into activism. Into making a difference. Some days, I just want to get as far away from humanity as I can. Get as far away from the humanity within myself. And I probably would, if I had the money to buy a refuge somewhere out in nature—a place where both the environment and myself could heal.

So, you may be asking, why I am even bothering to write these words for humanity to consume? And who would even be reading this far? People filled with the flame of rage against those with just as incendiary rage in their own hearts and souls? Those who (justly) retaliate against the hatemongers?

When I write that above part, I don’t want to insinuate that it’s not acceptable for those of you to be angry at the injustice directed at you for way too long now. Or steal your thunder from your valuable activist movement just because I’m a grumpy, bitter crone in the middle of an intense life transition. What I want to say, perhaps, is that it’s okay to rage. It’s okay for us to thunder when thunder has long been denied to us. It’s okay to flare up with brilliant lightning flashes and storm roars in order to fight back, and maybe if the combined rumbling of our thunder gets loud enough, we who have been silenced will be heard.

Because the fire of rage doesn’t have to be negative. It doesn’t have to be put out. All we have to do is build, and nourish, the right sort of fire. It may not be the kind of fire that is a four-alarm fire with all the bells and whistles but one that is powerfully smouldering beneath the earth.

Fire is cleansing no matter how it burns.

And one thing I’ve been hearing is how different the world is going to be after this pandemic. How everything is going to change.

But I don’t agree. I think it has the danger of going back to business as usual. Well, business as usual to an extreme degree. And I don’t think anything will change, except that we will waste more resources than usual, make more plastic, and contaminate everything with more chemicals.

But, paradoxically, I do see this as an opportunity to create change. Not even the same-old change as before, like buying non-GMO products and recycling millions of plastic bottles and making front-yard gardens and raising chickens all the while purchasing our mega sugar drink with a wee splash of coffee.

I’m talking about the change that comes when we use the fire element to burn away all that garbage; our fears, our confusion, our innate dissatisfaction with the way things are—and our hate. Channeling the ferocity of fire to really change things on a deep level. To live a life free from restrictions. To free oneself from the outdated mandates of mainstream society. To achieve independence from material things. To limit dependence on external goods. (Confession: I’m a terrible hoarder of stuff, especially books!)

Here’s what I see being burnt away and the real shift that will emerge in the aftermath. (I would say I might be proven right in a hundred years or so but everything is digital now and there probably will be very little historical records left for the following generations.)

  • I see the small-garden trend continuing. (If I, with my brown thumb of plant death, can grow bell peppers, then so can you!) I see less dependence on external sources for food/items purchased from big-box grocery stores and retail stores, and more reliance on local markets and specialty/niche businesses, food growers, and artisans—even if it’s acquired through online shopping. I see less dining out and more eating in.
  • I see less dependence on electronic devices. I don’t foresee it will go away, of course, but I see people developing a certain weariness towards electronic connectivity, and frustration with the stranglehold a few big providers have on the market, which allows them to provide poor (or ineffectual) service to their customers. I see a resurgence of entertainment like board games (your local comic book store is often a good place to find the latest in board and card games), and other forms of offline fun.
  • I see technology shifting as well; not just coming up with the latest gadget, but developing more of a social and environmental conscience and sensitivity to all life forms on this planet, not just humans.
  • I see people getting sick of cow manure in general. Conformity, bureaucracy, appliances that don’t work, social systems that fail to improve quality of life. I see people using the fire element to strip away all that nonsense to get to the core of things, including the core of one’s self.
  • I see more events coming that will be incendiary and will destroy a lot of things we take for granted. But once they are gone, I suspect people won’t miss them. How’s that saying go: “nature abhors a vacuum”? I think humanity has continued the historical habit of acting like, and creating, a vacuum out of earth, and ourselves, and if we shift and let the blazing fire of nature not only fill us, but fill in the cracks in our world, then we both may have a chance at survival.

And maybe then the million rage fires will start to go out, all over the world. Hopefully before we fill a spaceship with raging human fires of the unfortunate kind and send them out into the universe to burn and destroy on an intergalactic level.


Editor’s Note: Willow also wrote a thoughtful post on working with air energies a few months ago – worth a look if you need a fresh outlook on another element!