I could tell you – in painstaking detail, I could tell you – about the moment of ignition, the sounds and smells and burst of nothing into dancing flame as the match transformed from potential energy to kinetic.
I could explain to you the way the match slid across the grit for no reason other than, what? Selfishness? Because a match must be a match? Thoughtlessness… but is that ultimately any different than selfishness once the forest is burned to char? Spite? And what has a match to feel spiteful about?
Over time, the blue-burning fire whipped into life by that match has spread and scarred; it has banked and simmered, and leapt back to life in cycles depending on the wind… depending on the words…
And still, I search for that match – seek it to make it understand the error of its ways, to convince it to be other than it was, to repurpose its sulfur, as though a match once lit can be made whole again, can be turned into something other than a point of ignition.
Everywhere I go, though, the fire drips at my feet, is sprayed from my fingertips. If only that damned match hadn’t ignited, my heart could cool, my mind could work on new growth.
I have done it, too – haven’t we all?
Someone sparks something in us, touching on something wounded or taboo deep inside of us, and we feel a burning within us. “You! Why would you do this to me?!”
And if we’re of a certain disposition – as I sometimes am – we want to be validated in our other-focused despair, in our rage.
And yet a match left to its own volition burns away quickly. Without fuel and oxygen, it cannot last beyond its sliver of potential.
The match is a catalyst – the frustrating family member, the thoughtless coworker, the jerk at the coffee shop – while the inferno lives within us, is nurtured by us, by the one spreading fire as we search to tame the catalyst.
Ceasing our search for the match – releasing our drive to be affirmed in our self-stoked inferno – is the first step, then, to containing the damage.