One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that a lot of people really like fires. Not actual fires that burn up houses and forests, but the emotional fires that drive things like tumultuous romantic relationships and streaky sports teams. Even when we know better, the lure is sometimes just too much. All that burning somehow reminds us of the love that everyone seeks, but so many struggle to actually find.
In my experience, all the personal relationships that started out with hot, passionate chemistry died a quick death. The fire brought us together but once it cooled a bit, we really weren’t a good match for each other. This has been true in romance and in friendship. I recall, for example, a several-week romance that began with a mutual interest in social justice and alternative medicine. Less than two weeks in, we were declaring ourselves ‘soul mates’ and spending most of our time together. Not long after this, the fault lines began to appear. I was fond of quiet and stillness; she liked to move and do things constantly. I was a recovering perfectionist and she was still living out those narratives. Both of us were born leaders but we couldn’t figure out how to share that role, neither in our relationship nor in the work we were doing together. All of these issues and more were there from the beginning but we hadn’t seen them, or simply overrode their presence.
A similar kind of energy can drive people to give in to wildly unreasonable hopes about their favorite sports team. More than once I have fallen sucker for the team that comes out of nowhere and seems to have everything going for it, only to crash and burn before the finish line. My home state of Minnesota has had its share of these. The 2003 Minnesota Vikings football team comes to mind. They started the season undefeated, 6-0. Suddenly, the streets were filled with purple jerseys and dreams of the Super Bowl. It was a wild time, but that brief sense of rapture would soon be replaced with bitterness. The Vikings went on to lose 5 of the next 6 games, splitting the last 4 and failing to make the playoffs. The relatively weak early schedule had concealed their marginal defense, which was thoroughly exposed once tougher opponents arrived.
When it comes to relationships, some psychologists argue that many passionate, fire-filled beginnings come from a matching of wounds from the past – that the coming together isn’t about love and longevity but more about co-habiting dysfunctions hoping to heal each other. Many spiritual teachings also caution against beliefs we have around desire, precisely because they are designed to get us to go out and pursue whatever it is that is desired, regardless of whether getting it is beneficial or not.
It’s also the case that a lot of us simply want to believe we are truly getting the great thing of our dreams – the lifelong romance, the friend that will stick with us through thick and thin, the championship team that exceeds everyone’s expectations. So many of us struggle with a mind of lack, which not only leads us to miss much of the greatness already in our lives but also drives us to chase phantoms that reflect our dreams back at us, ultimately empty.
Perhaps those of us who are fire junkies would be wise to stop chasing fires altogether, to become more attracted to that which appears on the surface to be ‘plain’ or ‘common’ but which, over time, opens up into something incredible. And if we still need some fire in our lives, let’s go for the slow-burning ones that might not even look like they’re burning at all in the beginning.
Even the best of teams can’t win it all every year. Even the best of relationships include challenges and difficulties to be faced and overcome. When you find love beyond all that comes and goes, everything is better and the need to grab at hopeless causes ceases.
Fire by morgueFile