As far as we know, humans’ relationship with fire stretches back at least 1 million years, according to archaeological evidence from the Wonderwerk Cave site in South Africa. In all likeliness, the partnership extends much, much further.
While there are many important distinctions that separate humans from other animals, it is our ability to control fire that really sets us apart. Fire naturally evokes a sense of wonder, but it’s a tool over which we have agency. But an unfortunate side effect of our modern life is how often fire controls us.
Putting out fires
Putting out fires is a common term in the life of any business owner. Inevitably situations will arise that must be handled immediately, otherwise they can threaten the health and well being of the entire company. A quick Google search returns 31,4000,000 results for the term “putting out fires.” Wrapping the search term in “” yields 372,000 web pages with an exact match. Startup life is often described as putting out fires, or putting out new fires each day, because there are always more problems to solve then there are people or money to fix them. This is too unfortunate, because firefighting cannot go on forever.
Mastering fire has been essential to human progress. Cooked food delivers the nutrients our body needs much more efficiently than raw food, which allowed our stomachs to shrink, and our brains to grow. Inside warm caves we could devote body-heating energy to creative pursuits like music and storytelling. In modern times artificial lighting enables us to work after the sun has set. So it stands to reason that fire is at least as enabling as it is destructive.
Anything as powerful as fire has two sides. When we build fires instead of fighting them we can make our dreams reality, instead of running away from nightmares. If you’re spending too much of your time fighting fires, you’re more worried about getting burnt than what is possible harnessing the power of fire.
When we watch a fire dancer we’re exhilarated by the negotiation of destructive being held in check, and turned into art. In our own lives, and in our businesses we have the ability to dance with the force once we acknowledge that what may burn us can also illuminate.
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