Keeper of the Flame: It's a Tough Job but Everyone Oughta Do It

So there you are going about your morning with a smartphone in one hand and a Java Chip Frappuccino in the other.

Sound familiar?

I thought it might, but now fancy adding a small forged metal box into the mix.


Percussion fire-starting (the act of aggressively striking a piece of steel and flint together in hopes of igniting a spark) was common practice in Europe throughout the Middle Ages. And it was in a drawstring leather satchel where these items along with a gathered stock of dried tinder were typically stored during one’s travels.

Okay so no biggie, right?

Right. However the task of actually getting a fire lit would often prove to be a whole other animal.

Therefore rather than repeat this painstaking process every time a mouthwatering bowl of pottage needed to be boiled, many folks opted to carry with them a crafted metal box which contained smoldering embers from the previous go-round, regularly adding tinder and fanning as needed during the course of the day in order to keep the embers from dying out.

Now that would be a pain in the butt!

Of course we needn’t go back centuries to fully understand just how difficult it can be to, “keep the fire alive.”

Granted, these days a blown out pilot light or an undrawn stogy can be effortlessly relit with the strike of a match or the flick of your Bic. But what about a fire that went up in smoke years ago?

Y’know, like that one deep down in your belly.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the average American works 44 hours per week, or 8.8 hours per day. Add to this the increased commute times we’re experiencing these days, as well as the soul-crushing fact that the majority of us aren’t happy in the jobs we’re commuting to and from five or six days a week and it’s not hard to see why there’s such a widespread withdrawal when it comes to tending to the fire.

Just trying to earn an honest living these days can be downright exhausting.

Maybe that’s why according to the A.C. Nielsen Company the average American sits on his or her tush and watches more than 4 hours of TV per day. Or why as determined by people in the United States spend 2 hours and 3 minutes on social media each and every day.

My guilty pleasure of choice after a draining workday: the heinous happy hour.

And truth be told I often do feel a gnawing sense of guilt when knockin’ back a few cold ones after work, because I know damn well I should be spending that time on something more constructive. All the same, that wily shoulder-devil can be awfully convincing.

"Dude, relax, you worked your tail off today. You earned it, so chill, the last thing you want to do after a long day at work is work some more."

The long and short of it is that we all have our struggles. We all have our (occasional) vises. But surely we all have hopes and dreams as well, many of which have likely been stewing for years, just waiting on us to muster enough motivation to give ’em a fair shake.

Again, some well-deserved downtime, I’m all in. But in the interest of fairness let’s not turn a blind eye to that which we’re potentially missing out on in the interim: enjoyable, meaningful and deeply rewarding work.

There are jobs, there are chores, and there is work
— Donald Hall

Kick back or get on with it. At times it can be a tough call. Yet in the end it’s your call, and if you’re feeling like you could use a little spring in your step these days, if you’re looking for something that’ll light a rousing fire under that uninspired ass of yours, then I highly recommend the latter.

Just bear in mind that like all things worth doing, e.g., rekindling an old flame, or starting one from scratch for that matter, takes time and patience. Most of all it takes a certain level of commitment, which in turn, requires a reasonable amount of sacrifice.

I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy, said Art Williams, I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it

History suggests that fire may have first been discovered as far back as 1.7 million years ago, and suffice it to say when that matted haired primate in the animal skin tunic first rubbed those two twigs together he must have instinctively known that he was sitting on an extremely “hot” commodity. And that it wouldn’t be long before every club-swinging thug in the valley would be looking to “steal his fire.”

These days the chances of some Neanderthal sneaking up on you and beaming you over the head with an oversized drumstick are exceedingly remote. Nevertheless the threat of someone (or more likely) something stealing your fire remains every bit as real.

Even more so is the fact that today’s broad band of thieves is far more cunning and sophisticated, so much so that unlike that barefaced blow to the head odds are you’ll never even know what hit you.

That’s why today more than ever it’s imperative that like our Middle Age ancestors we take the initiative to keep the fire alive, to protect it, to defend it, and to care for it as best we can.

Because if you think lugging around some unwieldy box of embers that require a topping off of kindling every now and again is a pain in the butt, try carrying the oppressive weight of an unfulfilled dream atop your shoulders for the better part of the rest of your life.

Just sayin'.

See ya soon, till then, keeep it up.

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