Building a Fire

flamesLast night, a nasty cold front rolled through our North Texas region. It had been freezing cold all day but on the drive home from work, the rain drops hitting my wind shield froze upon impact. What better time to make a nice little fire in the fire place, I thought to myself.

After first heading down to the creek behind our house to pick up wood and then building a fire and lighting it, I started wondering about the CO2 emissions of my little coziness. Wow ! I actually wondered whether my fire in the fireplace was worse for global warming than cranking the “electric” heat.  So much as evidence of how my green conscience has got me all screwed up.

Regardless of the fact whether a log fire produces a lower heat:CO2 ratio than my electric provider, I realized that making a fire in the fireplace at that particular time had less to do with staying warm and more with staying “human in an engineered age” (and I’m here quoting the subtitle of another great Bill McKibben book I’m reading – “Enough”).

There are a lot of ridiculous ways that energy is wasted. I read last night that by banning incandescent light bulbs in Europe, North America, and Australia, we could reduce global CO2 emissions by 12% ! Imagine that. And that’s not even such a ridiculous use of energy. Many people should ask themselves every time they flip a switch whether this is a proper use of electricity. In fact, we should start thinking of any electric device as a global warming device and turn them on less often and off more often.

But regarding my log fire, I decided that making a fire is one of those rare moments that sort of puts you in touch with generations of millions of men who came before and lit their fires long ago when our atmosphere had not yet begun to warm up. It’s one of those few experiences in a 21st century life that is almost exactly as it was and has been for thousands of years. Pile up a bunch of logs and light them, and what you see will look just like what it looked like ever since the first man lit a fire.

There are other similar moments like this – gazing at the stars (unless you’re near an airport) most definitely does the trick. And the anticipation of having a baby and not knowing whether it’s going to be a boy or a girl. In fact, I’m about to experience the latter for the second time very soon. It would have never entered my mind to want to find out whether we were going to have a boy or a girl. Pretty much because not knowing allows you one of the few real, meaningful surprizes you can still have in life. And that’s something money can’t buy.


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