It’s that time of the year again. Spring is creeping up on us, new shoots are poking up from the ground and festivals of regeneration and re-birth are taking place around the world.
In my ancestral part of the world, South and West Asia, the festival of Holi, (celebrated in South Asia) and Norooz (celebrated in West Asia), are coming up this month. Holi is March 8, Norooz is March 20th. Both feature fire, a meditation on righteousness and lots of color.
During Holi, people burn large bonfires in public and rededicate themselves to placing good over evil. Then they revel in a day-long public celebration of throwing water and color on each other. The internal struggle brings one in line with the natural struggle of life over death, the emergence of color and vitality after the dormancy of winter.
For Norooz, large bonfires are set in public the Wednesday before New Year (Chahar Shanbeh Soori) and people jump over the fires with an intention to receive the fire’s strength and to burn away their own stagnant energy.
On New Year’s day they set elaborate tables of colorful items to signify the New Year’s blessings and renew themselves and their intentions for the world. Again, the permanence of goodness and harmony is insisted upon after the discord of winter. Our fears are allayed by nature’s process of sending out color and sustenance, and also by our inward journey to bring light to those places colored by the messages of oppression.
I love all the metaphors of fire and light and the duality between lightness and dark, but also in the duality of fire itself. Fire can kill and harm, but it can also purify and enlighten. Why? What distinguishes a beneficial fire from a destructive one? Actually, it isn’t the fire at all. It’s the person or thing the fire is acting upon. So what power do humans possess that can change the way a fire burns?
Looking up the dictionary definition of “consume” I am struck with the negative connotations: 1. to destroy or expend by use; use up. 2. to eat or drink up; devour. 3. to destroy, as by decomposition or burning. 4.to spend (money, time, etc.) wastefully.
These references make me feel like I can’t stop the machine of consumption. We become objects in a larger process, we are consumed by capitalism, consumed by oppression, and we then consume others. An external force that neither I, nor anyone I know, created. So can this external force be purified? Transformed?
Yes! But not BY consumption … WITH consumption. When you are consumed with something, the fire comes from within. Even if it scares you, it’s your flame, it’s your best vision, and stepping into it means to step into your own light. We must discern what type of energy we are being consumed by or with. Are we preoccupied with the heat of oppression, believing the smoky distortions, falling victim to them? Or are we focused on our own fire; walking in the light of what we know is true?
I’ll be busy this month with workshops and talks before I go back in Kabul at the end of the month. I hope you can make one of my events. Let’s find our brightest path, shout FIRE, and walk into the flames!
Here are some Asian artists igniting flames of love and equity, helping people shake off the darkness through the arts. I hope their work reminds you that in every single country there are remarkable, innovative artists working for liberation.
Studio Revolt in Cambodia
The studio collaborates with emerging Cambodian and deported artists to assert a new generation of narratives. Together we will shape a new movement that frees Cambodian imagination and consciousness beyond war and poverty.