“The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out” (Leviticus 6:5)
My fingers and toes are cold now, sitting in the kitchen, and it’s only September 22nd. I do not enjoy winter. Do not tell me to learn to ski; I almost went flying off a cliff the first time I tried. My winter hobby is searching for the warmest affordable clothing possible. That and the other inconveniences of the cold seasons keep me occupied.
But there is a sharper coldness surrounding us. Engaged with the world, we are forced to breathe it in, watch it, listen to it. And you know, there are few things colder than hate. Dante knew. He told us that as Satan beats his featherless wings, he creates a cold wind that freezes the ice around him. We can feel it.
In my kitchen I read articles that write with revulsion about conservatives, Republicans, gun owners, and Joe Biden. Mocking dismissal of anti-vaxxers has become a necessary component of conversation. I’m considering sitting on a FRTA bus and yelling, “COVID is a hoax!” just to see what would happen. Dare I? Will police be called?
Most of us do not harbor that much ice. However, l do find cold shards popping up from my warm heart. For instance, I enjoy a good, witty attack on Mitch McConnell. That is not an especially freezing cold shard – maybe a Popsicle type of cold. However, cutting blades of shards lurk around inside my head.
More than my fingers and toes, keeping my heart warm requires some effort, especially during these times. The best method for keeping it warm is being with other people. Alas, COVID is not a hoax. We measure how far apart we stand from one another. Anyone we meet, friend or foe or dentist, may infect us with a disease. That’s new. How can we stay warm?
Tending sacred flames is an ancient skill. We use them to honor fallen soldiers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. At the Koysan Buddhist Temple in L.A. a flame was brought from the torch at the Hiroshima Memorial Park in Japan. The Cherokee people brought coals from their original seat of government to relight the flame. The ancient sacred fire of the goddess Brigid in Kildare has a long history of being extinguished and then lit again. The Holocaust Memorial Museum cares for a flame to honor the victims. Candlelight vigils for justice, for shooting victims, for the missing, are innumerable. Tending to these flames is considered an honor. Caretakers protect the warmth. We gather around them.
We’ve got a sacred flame in our hearts which requires tending. The archaic meaning of the word “tend” is “listen.” When you feel the cold, listen, tend the flame, create the warmth.
But I still refuse to ski.