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After Culture, Fire

1. Theme

In symbiosis, fire and civilization each take on

the attributes of the other.

Fire does not destroy, it converts.

When studying fire and its wanton transfer, the theme is control.

We had been practicing with small fires for about three weeks, he said.

When the fire got big I dropped my squirt gun and my sneakers melted.

A guy driving past grabbed our hose and tried to put it out.

2. History

Swedes and Finns practiced and perfected swidden;

the periodic slashing and burning that made forests into fields.

Humans made Europe their home when they burned it.

The legend of fire in Europe is the history of isolation;

from fens to moors to containment inside the furnaces of industry.

Before culture, there was fire. After culture there will be fire.

3. Ritual

In a ritual of purification fire is created and sustained to protect

a community. No longer a force in the landscape or the shrine

at the heart of a people, fire becomes an engine of work

and a tool of the household, never allowed to escape.

The sacred and the bad of fire is only part of the story.

Just because fire is common doesn't mean we have tamed it.

Lightening continues its restless foraging nightly.

Fire is nature in delirium tremens.

4. Fact is

The truth is that fire is never better controlled than when

it is scorching the forests of a trans-human region, or smoldering

in the fields of the arboreal farmer.

From 1933 to 1945 Europe burned, in bonfires of libraries,

inside concentration camp ovens.

European fire—controlled, vicious, haunts the twentieth century.

Settled agricultural people have struggled for centuries to come to terms

with the power they hold to coax life by burning it up.

5. Presently

We are left at the end with contemporary fire restricted, hated, and almost

isolated from daily life for those few who still burn their garbage.

Playing with fire is one of the paramount transgressions of childhood.

I asked the arson investigator if it meant something where the child

started the fire

He replied, Are you asking which side of the parent's bed he lit first?

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