AdventWord 2022: Fire

Vincent in the workshop

Fire and the deliberate creation of fire is something that only humans do. Just about any other attribute that homo sapiens possess can be found elsewhere in the animal kingdom but not fire.

Some of the earliest archaeological evidence of human habitation features fire or a fireplace. It is something that has been in the human toolkit for most of our existence as a species. It has enabled us to populate the world and enabled us to survive through ice ages. Without fire, this would have been otherwise almost impossible!

I think that as a species it’s as relevant to refer to ourselves as homo ignis (man of fire) as it is to use homo sapiens (man of wisdom). Staring into a fire is so meditative to so many cultures around the world, that we can infer that mankind coevolved with fire.

The worldview of the ancients (at least in the European tradition) had four elements – earth, air, water and fire. It is seen as a transformative element rather than a destructive one.

Do you want pottery? Do you want cooked food? You need fire. Do you want to smelt metal? You need fire. Do you want to make it through winter and into spring alive? If you’re in a temperate part of the world you also need it. The list is almost endless.

The two ages that ushered in the widespread use of technology are named after metal (the bronze age and the iron age). Both of those required us to optimise fire to produce higher temperatures than had been possible previously.

The industrial revolution…

The next great leap in western material creation was the industrial revolution. Initially, water-powered, but the adoption of steam power was what enabled its exponential growth and brought made goods accessible and affordable. In a very real sense, this stage of mankind’s relationship with fire was what brought goods into the homes of ordinary people. Historically these goods may have been reserved only for the wealthy. In a way, it is a democratisation of the essentials of life.

From iron bedsteads to ceramic teapots, there were now the artefacts of a decent standard of living available and affordable to almost everyone for the first time in human history. All driven by our control of fire.

In the current age, we are more dependent on fire for our existence than ever. Our lives are all touched by the internal combustion engine (for better or worse, time will decide) and electricity. The former is still generated by the burning of fossil fuels with the attendant impact on our environment. Even if you drive an electric vehicle there is a good chance that the source of that electricity will be fossil fuels depending on your provider.


One of the most enjoyable activities for me demands fire, namely the fine art of barbecuing. There is something deeply primeval about the combination of man, flesh and flame that resonates with me. I will spark up the coals with minimal provocation! I have barbecued the Christmas turkey (in the snow) on more than one occasion which my long-suffering family will attest to and for which there is photographic evidence!!!


It also gave us this!

Picture of Vincent Heywood

Vincent Heywood


Mindful Business Services (MBS) is a family-owned private limited company that focuses on serving, not fixing or helping. We love helping people get things done to have more time for the fun things in life…

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