A Fire for Life: The Fire in the Sun, the Fire in Your Heart

"It is stern work, it is perilous work, to thrust your hand in the sun and pull out a spark of immortal flame to warm the hearts of men."

By Sam Yang - Get similar updates here

The ancient Stoics believed that all matter had within them the same fire. Yet whether I ever told you this or not, fire would still be meaningful. When we talk of what is within, the language we use is of fire. Early man or modern, when we look at the sun, we wonder, if the fire in the sun is the same fire as the one that burns within our hearts.

Collected Stories of William Faulkner, "Barn Burning":

[T]hat the element of fire spoke to some deep mainspring of his father’s being, as the element of steel or of powder spoke to other men, as the one weapon for the preservation of integrity, else breath were not worth the breathing, and hence to be regarded with respect and used with discretion.

Letters from a Stoic - Lucius Annaeus Seneca:

Life is the fire that burns and the sun that gives light. Life is the wind and the rain and the thunder in the sky. Life is matter and is earth, what is and what is not, and what beyond is in Eternity.

The Valkyries - Paulo Coelho:

Don’t fear the light within. May it ignite the Sacred Flame in your soul.

The Nature of the Gods - Marcus Tullius Cicero:

The universe itself is god and the universal outpouring of its soul; it is this same world’s guiding principle, operating in mind and reason, together with the common nature of things and the totality that embraces all existence; then the foreordained might and necessity of the future; then fire and the principle of aether; then those elements whose natural state is one of flux and transition, such as water, earth, and air; then the sun, the moon, the stars; and the universal existence in which all things are contained.

Fragments - Heraclitus:

That which always was,
and is, and will be everlasting fire,
the same for all, the cosmos,
made neither by god nor man,
replenishes in measure
as it burns away.

Main Street and Other Poems, "The Proud Poet" - Joyce Kilmer:

It is stern work, it is perilous work, to thrust your hand in the sun
And pull out a spark of immortal flame to warm the hearts of men:
But Prometheus, torn by the claws and beaks whose task is never done,
Would be tortured another eternity to go stealing fire again.
Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire, it did not burn up. So Moses thought, ‘I will go over and see this strange sight — why the bush does not burn up.’

When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, ‘Moses! Moses!’

And Moses said, ‘Here I am.’

The Fellowship of the Ring - J. R. R. Tolkien:

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

Isaac Asimov:

Any technological advance can be dangerous. Fire was dangerous from the start, and so (even more so) was speech — and both are still dangerous to this day — but human beings would not be human without them.
It may also be that, quite apart from any specific references one food makes to another, it is the very allusiveness of cooked food that appeals to us, as indeed that same quality does in poetry or music or art. We gravitate towards complexity and metaphor, it seems, and putting fire to meat or fermenting fruit and grain, gives us both: more sheer sensory information and, specifically, sensory information that, like metaphor, points away from the here and now. This sensory metaphor — this stands for that — is one of the most important transformations of nature wrought by cooking. And so a piece of crisped pig skin becomes a densely allusive poem of flavors: coffee and chocolate, smoke and Scotch and overripe fruit and, too, the sweet-salty-woodsy taste of maple syrup on bacon I loved as a child. As with so many other things, we humans seem to like our food overdetermined.
Are we just an ordinary animal that happens to enjoy the tastes and securities of cooked food without in any way depending on them? Or are we a new kind of species tied to the use of fire by our biological needs, relying on cooked food to supply enough energy to our bodies?
The pipe is a link between the earth and the sky. Nothing is more sacred. The pipe is our prayers in physical form. Smoke becomes our words; it goes out, touches everything, and becomes a part of all there is. The fire in the pipe is the same fire in the sun, which is the source of life. The reason why tobacco is used to connect the worlds is that the plant’s roots go deep into the earth, and its smoke rises high into the heavens.