We all need help sustaining that fire.
What lessons outside of the classroom have saved me? And from what? Embarrassment? Disaster? Harm? Too many to count. And maybe that's a sign of a lack of self-awareness? To not know what specific lessons have saved you?
If saved, how will we know what we were saved from? We did not meet ruin in that moment, we cannot grasp the depths we do not reach.
Is Whitehead referring to the habit of darkness? Despite avoiding the deepest of depths, we’ve made a home within darkness, and so must be saved from it to understand just how dark it has gotten. As he frames it, we only know darkness when we are brought into the light. We cannot know the extent of our journey until we can see, until our eyes adjust and recognize the difference, make sense of our surroundings in comparison to the habitual landscape of darkness.
How do we explain this to our kids, without also trying to save them from the darkness inherent in life’s toughest lessons? To explain and save, where is the lesson then?
Can we learn those crucial lessons without losing the light? I know I couldn't. I’m trying now. I wish I could instill these lessons into my teenage self: heed the warnings of others; learn from watching, not always doing; find your trusted resources and hang on to them, listen to them; listen to that voice inside you, don't lose it in the darkness.
And maybe that's the point: growth doesn’t happen as we recall the lessons that saved us, but when we are aware of the lessons we wish we would have learned earlier.
Cormac taught me that one: “Keep a fire burning; however small, however hidden.”
There were moments I thought the fire had gone out, but somehow I was always able to find it. Even if it was a low, smoldering heap of ashes, that fire never died. And maybe that's the lesson I'm only just learning now: it doesn't take much to save us. The act of saving isn't the hard part.
A breath whispered into our heart is enough to keep the flame of hope alive. Our loved ones, however painful, are willing to sustain the fire when we cannot. The difficult task is what happens after we realize we've been saved, and once we understand how long our loved ones have been saving us.
This is not about responsibility or obligation. This is about the mutual and collective act of saving each other. We save each other because we have been saved in the past and will need to be saved in the future.
We all need help sustaining that fire. Save the guilt. If we can embrace the energy required to save and build our fire, and use that fire to sustain the fires of those around us, we can sustain the hope and savor the warmth we create together.
We can, as poet David St. John tells us, “Stand as a flame in the flame.”