The world around us seems so dark.
Reason. Unreason. Right. Wrong. Up. Down. Does it even matter anymore?
And what can we possibly do, in any case? How can we possibly make a difference? With so many voices making such a cacophony, our whisper is drowned in a sea of dissension.
We feel fire burning in our chests. There are certain places we are supposed to go. There are certain causes we must take up. There are certain things we must do. But it seems as though everything conspires against us. We can’t get traction. Our dreams run at the speed of thought, and we struggle to make our flesh comply.
And we are able to touch the world for such a short time.
So we watch. We watch the darkness spread, and we feel powerless to stop it. We have been sidelined, because we do not know how, or perhaps are afraid, to spread our light.
At the inception of our nation, men and women bent under the crushing weight of tyranny and oppression. But slowly, slowly, voices began to rise above the din of British rule. Thomas Paine wrote the treatise “Common Sense.”(1) Pastors across the colonies began to declare that resistance to Britain was a righteous cause.(2) And shortly men and women – just like you and me – were rising up, declaring that they would no longer be ruled by an iron fist. They then began to take action, opposing the British. These voices were joined by others. Heroes rose amongst their ranks – some known, thousands upon thousands obscure. And, on July 4th, 1776, America became a new nation.
In many areas of the United States, the 4th of July is celebrated with fireworks. Crammed down into a small package of paper and cardboard, they contain the bottled potential to erupt in the dark, cascading colors and beauty and light across the night sky. They only exist for a few seconds, and then they are gone. All that remains is an empty husk, and the smell of smoke. But the alternative is for them to sit on a shelf. To grow stale. And, eventually, to be discarded, never having unleashed their intended potential. A firework’s life is short, in either case. But, when they are set aflame, the memory of them burns into the minds of the children and adults who watch them erupt.
In the grand scheme of the cosmos, we are here for seconds. But during that time, we can decide if our potential will be unleashed to light up the night, or if we will sit in our wrapper of doubts and despair and watch the dark spread, untouched.
We were intended to burn. A different color, a different shape, a different size. But we were meant to burn all the same. By not pursuing our cause, by not lifting up our voice, we allow the dark to continue uncontested.
But what can one firework do, against all that blackness? What is the point of burning for a few measly seconds?
There is one other thing a firework can do. It can start a fire. And a fire can reshape the world for generations to come. Furthermore, no matter what this firework may think, it does not burn alone.
May we embrace the passion that is bottled deep down inside us. May we burn with the mission we were put on this earth to burn for. And may we all blaze like fireworks.
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1. Paine, Thomas, “Common Sense.” 1776