Transformed by Fire: The Bravery of Facing Crisis

Sep 10, 2021

 “The only hope, or else despair,

Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre—

To be redeemed from fire by fire.”

—T. S. Eliot

Fire, “braving the heat,” is the alchemy happening all around us. We see it when we cook food, style our hair, make pottery, sterilize equipment, bend steel, and transform base metals to gold.

There is a reason that the discovery of fire marks the beginning of all civilization. It is the extreme heat of fire that transforms one substance into another, vastly expanding its utility and value.

And we will all walk through the fire at some point in our lives..

For different reasons, for different lengths of time, through different heights of flame. But we all walk through. These are the crises that shake us to our core -- to wake us up from living on autopilot, to teach us something, to make us grateful, and sometimes for no discovered reason at all. But just the same, we all must walk through.

Knowing this is inevitable, would you rather emerge on the other side the same (perhaps wounded or weakened), or transformed into something new?

This is why we need courage to truly brave the heat. To allow for transformation -- without being destroyed in the process -- means to contain the fire. NOT control it.

Let me say that again: Braving the heat to be transformed means containing - intensifying - the fire, not controlling or dowsing it.

Cor (n) Latin; meaning heart, or the seat of all feelings

This transformation we have the ability to choose, this alchemy we practice on ourselves, takes the courage of a hero.

But not the kind of courage that yields brute strength or charging the flames head-on. No, we’re talking about the courage to release control. Courage to open up. Courage to be willing to be vulnerable, exposed, in order to allow the flames to reach us. It is the courage to sit with ourselves in the darkness, in the silence, in the emptiness, and be.

“Pain is the most individualizing thing on earth. It is true that it is the great common bond as well, but that realization comes only when it is over. To suffer is to be alone.” -- Mythology scholar Edith Hamilton

In doing so, we expose ourselves as the bravest we can be: vulnerable to being consumed, with the faith that in doing so, we will reach the other side transformed.

So, what do you think? There is an opportunity in front of all of us, especially given the state of our world in 2021 (what is almost 2022). And we can choose how we treat it. Will we run?

Will we kick and scream and fight?

Or will we, by the grace of each other and faith in making it out the other side, step into the flames exposed, letting it illuminate the darkest parts of ourselves and our world?

We keep saying we’ll need a miracle or magic to make it out of this. What we really need is the courage to look up and reach out. A path of hope and healing lies ahead of us if we are brave enough to walk it. 

This is a modified re-telling of a few pages from Chapter 10 of my book Never Waste a Crisis. The rest of that chapter explores the role of pain, solitude, and time in the transformative and healing process during and after crisis.

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