Monday, July 22, 2013

Something's Burning

Fire is one of those things that can be endlessly fascinating, and equally frightening when out of control. We all know what it is, but might be hard-pressed to define it, so here are the first two definitions from dictionary.com:
1. a state, process, or instance of combustion in which fuel or other material is ignited and combined with oxygen, giving off light, heat, and flame.
2. a burning mass of material, as on a hearth or in a furnace.

When I woke this morning I was thinking about how frequently the word fire was used or came up as a metaphor in rock 'n roll. Here's a short list off the top of my head.

"Goodness gracious, great ball o' fire!" ~Jerry Lee Lewis

"I'm just a hunk, a hunk of burning love." ~Elvis

"She's cool like ice, like fire." ~Dylan

Earth, Wind and Fire

"Let me stand next to your fire." ~Hendrix

"Fire... I'll take you to burn." ~Arthur Brown

"Come on, baby, light my fire." ~The Doors

"Don't you play with me or you'll play with fire." ~Rolling Stones

"We didn't start the fire..." ~Billy Joel

"Something's burning, and I think it's love." ~Kenny Rogers

"I've seen fire and I've seen rain..." ~James Taylor

* * *
The Greek's left us a tale about how fire came to mankind, the story of Prometheus. In Greek mythology Prometheus is credited with creating man from clay. (My son used to make people from clay, too, when he was young.)  As he watched these people whom he created he observed that they suffered during the winter time while the gods all sat around being content in the warmth of their environment.

Prometheus asked Zeus to provide fire for the people but Zeus demurred stating that fire might make people strong and wise like the gods. In addition, fire is dangerous. Someday people might sings songs about it and work themselves into an uncontrolled frenzy.

Prometheus chose to act on behalf of the people and defied Zeus, an action that made him memorable to us but caused him great sorrow. One day he stole fire from Zeus' lightning and snuck it off to the humans that he cared about. Though there is much more to this tale the scene we remember most is the payback Prometheus received for defying Zeus. Prometheus was chained to a rock and each day an eagle (symbol of Zeus) would fly down and tear out his liver. This horrible thing never killed him, however, as the liver would regenerate and he would have to look forward to the same thing happening the next day once more, and the day after ad infinitum.

Fire did ultimately prove to be useful for the people of our world. But it's also done some damage. Homes have been destroyed. Lives have been taken. Fire has caused much destruction.

The story of Zeus and Prometheus seems like a generational thing. "Parents just don't understand." Sometimes parents are wise to be cautious. Fire can be a powerful force. On a cold mid-winter's night, though, I wouldn't want to be without it. When it's raging out of control, however, it can be a pretty scary thing.

Does fire frighten you or comfort you? Respect its power.

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