Consuming Fire

Are there those who are truly content with their lives? Show them to me. Let me drink in their foolishness. Certainly, they must be mad. If life has a purpose (and, yes, I know it does not!), it must be to burn—to consume itself in the passions and adventures offered by the world. For whether you consume yourself or not, in the end you are consumed by life—you die to feed further life. What good then to conserve your life, your energy, your natural wealth? Such conservation merely guarantees you never truly live. Like the misers in the stories, you survive like a pauper with a mattress full of riches. Fortunately, very few people are this pathetic. Most enjoy a little, dare a little—but with care. They gamble, but they hedge their bets—after all, what about tomorrow? Tomorrow when we may be dead… Moderation—this is the key in most people’s minds—but the key to what? To mediocrity, of course—that middle course that takes us nowhere that isn’t colorless…Grey, drab lives in ticky-tacky suburbs with even lawns. What fire is left merely smolders, but never flares. Nonetheless, it consumes, and those who lived such careful lives are gone just like the carefree daredevil who risked all. But such smoldering fires consume without beauty, without poetry and with very little light or heat.

No one denies the difficulty of a life of risk. But isn’t such difficulty precisely what gives life its spark, its joy? But we have been taught so well to fear. Who has no fear? Those who claim they have no fear are liars, fearing in particular that they will be exposed as cowards.

The things that keep us from what we desire: fear of love and of its lack, fear of cops and prison, fear of poverty, fear of loss of reputation, fear of solitude, fear of the unknown… On and on, the abstract, and sometimes concrete, fears get in our way. Yet for those of courage, fear can be a spice – a sabor picante adding to the wonder of an adventure. Doesn’t it tone the wits to have to get what one desires at a risk, to have to evade the upholders of the present mediocrity? This is why the hero and the outlaw are so often the same: those who will not let the rules apply to them. And, yes, the poets as well, those whose burning passions explode out in words of flame hurled defiantly at the world of mediocrity.

At times, the intrusions of this world into one’s life seems overwhelming… The cloak of Hercules soaked in burning, sticking poison smothering vitality with an agonizing pain. The hours tick away, the days pass emptily, one’s memory is a desolate wasteland reflecting the sameness of each day… Dreams fade; desires lose their fire and flow without life through the narrow channels defined by fifteen seconds of flashing light and noisy jingles from the television or the parade of billboards passed along the highway. This is the existence offered to us by the present society, by the community of capital in which all are one because each is nothing, where passionate love and hatred are smothered by the resentful and disrespectful tolerance required to maintain social peace, a tolerance that brings with it the continual daily round of humiliations that guarantee the enduring insignificance of each individual even to herself.

The clear-headed individual who wants the fullness of life that he knows must be possible recognizes the need for total and destructive transformation of the present world and so of herself (in whom so much of this world exists). She furthermore realizes that this revolution is not something that will drop from the sky into his lap. In fact, to sit around and wait for history to grant one “the revolution” is to continue to act, think and speak within the logic of the present mediocrity, the logic of capital which reduces each of us to a cipher. Such a revolution, should it ever come, could only reproduce the present world, perhaps in a more egalitarian form, but who wants to be equal to zero?

The recognition that one cannot continue as a cipher and the consequent decision to act destructively against the present social order, to attack it with all of one’s being, begins the process of the total transformation of the individual, for, as it is put into practice, this decision draws out what is unique in each of us, our singularity, and thus draws us out from the herd of ciphers and into the world of self-creation.