by C. Ikpoh

Fire. It is said to be the element of God and the angels. The Holy Spirit appeared to the apostles as single flames after Christ's resurrection. Uriel's sword is said to be ablaze with the fire of righteousness. Fire was the single discovery that transformed mankind's existence in this world; a gift from God one could say. Ironic that fire is also said to be the life force of hell and all its entities. The stories of old tell tales of the underworld's sky raining down sulfur and fire. The enemy is said to be the master of the flame, birthing his minions from within it. Warnings have been shouted since the dawn of human consciousness and self-awareness that our souls shall "burn" for an eternity if we do not repent; a reference to the fires of hell. This begs the question, which does fire belong? Does it exist as a characteristic and weapon of the righteous, or as the medium to the wicked and their domain?


Before searching for the answer though, one must familiarize themself with fire. You see, it has a life of its own. Sit and watch fire, and you will realize no two flames are the same. They each possess a unique personality causing them to move individually, yet, all the while seemingly dancing in unison. They appear to encapsulate the human persona, expressing characteristics known to us all. Fire is alive. Nevertheless, for all its unique qualities, it still has only one purpose: to burn. The meaning of that burning, how it occurs, when it occurs, and why it is brought about, all remain a mystery.


Within that mystery, life presents trials and tribulations to us all. Indeed, we are baptized by fire upon birth, thrusted into the world unexpectedly as newborns and expected to adapt without any knowledge of the experience. Is this a cruel joke or a necessary initiation, for why does our final journey towards immortality begin with screams of sheer terror? Possibly it is because the fire of birth is burning our spirit into our core, subduing it into recession. I wonder... do the angels cry tears of joy or laughter upon seeing our beginning?


Along with life, time is a conduit of fire as well. Each passing second can burn our spirit, leaving the edges blackened and fragile. Such is life that it continually pours the gasoline which fuels our journeys onto us, daring each person to play with time and ignite their spirit with the fire of life's experiences. Iron does not become steel until it passes through fire, and we do not become stronger until we go through the stages of life and all they present. Fire can empower us or debilitate us. Another irony surrounding the element of the immortals.


When time ceases its role as a conduit of fire, the journey in this world ends. Our "flame" is extinguished so to speak. In the hereafter, it is believed one type of fire will greet us. Either the fire of salvation, burning away all the things not needed in the heavens, or the fires of hell, inflicting spiritual retribution upon us. In life, the burning of an object signifies not only its end, but also its destruction. Cremation unites our flesh and the flame unto the ashes of memories no longer told. In the latter, fire is once again the chosen method at the spirit's crossing of the planes which we exist. But is it destruction that fire represents which defines the end, or the deliverance into eternity awaiting us all?


Therefore, I ask again. Which does fire belong? Does it exist as a characteristic and weapon of the righteous, or as the medium to the wicked and their domain? I guess in order for each question posed, one must indulge in the fire to discover the answers.