9-9 Tiny Flames to Light the Darkness

Here is a metaphor (because words and metaphors are how I think).

Flames dance out of three ceramic dishes filled with oil and a wick in the foreground.  The background is a blur of other flames and small ceramic dishes.
 Flames at the alter of a temple to Ganesh in Kuala Lumpur. Ganesh is the god of overcoming obstacles and the arts and sciences.

Relationships are like flames.  Friends, family relationships, romantic connections, all of them are like fire, but I’ve been thinking a lot about friendships.

When you strike a match, it doesn’t catch every time.  We come across people in our lives who might be friends but for whom the spark doesn’t catch.  There isn’t enough tinder or the wind blew wrong and it was snuffed out.  These are the relationships that might have been.  Different circumstances or a different moment in time and they might have been friendships, but not here and now.

Every few matches, you get a strong spark that catches the wood of the match.  From there, you try to feed it the right tinder.  Maybe you feed it bits of paper or dry leaves or fluff from a cattail.  Or maybe you transfer it to a piece of wick.  Once it catches, you move into larger kindling – maybe some twigs or shaved chunks of dried wood or wax.  The wrong kind of kindling may make it burn so hot and fast that it burns out, but a different kind may be too wet to get beyond a smolder.  These flames are fragile.  Too much and you smother them, too little and they starve.

Only once your flame has caught and is burning solidly in wood or wick can you trust that it will burn easily.  You still have to feed it and protect it from rain and wind, but you know that that fire and endure a breeze or scattered showers.

An old, solid friendship is like a well bank pile of coals.  When you toss in new fuel, it flares to life and the flames dance, but it can go days or longer without needing fuel.  It may be covered in ash and require a bit of effort to find the warmth, but if you put in the effort the heat is still there and the fire can reignite.

Nurturing friendships requires just the right combination of time and humor and mutual interests and all the other bits and pieces that build into a friendship.  But you can’t know which ones will blossom without striking spark after spark after spark.

At the same time, any fire can turn into a destructive force when fed the wrong fuel – just like any relationship can turn harmful under the wrong circumstances.  Friendship is a form of love and love carries passion.  That’s a fire that can warm your hands or singe your skin.

This metaphor spins another way as well.  You don’t expect from a candle what you expect from a campfire.  Neither of those fires are bad or wrong, they are just different.  The relationships that are a candle in the darkness don’t need to become a campfire.  They are whole and complete as they are.

Friendships – all relationships – are flames.  They warm us when we are cold and bring brightness to the dark.  They are fragile and beautiful and give so much brightness to my world.

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