Please Just Give Me the Flame

“I haven’t done anything. I’ve just been sent here to bring back a new flame to spark ours” the Guardsman replied.

“Then tell us what happened to the flame you carry, which you say is not yours.”

“Although our village once had a strong flame, the village people fought over its proper maintenance and use to the degree that now we have almost nothing left. We have forgotten how to tend the flame, forgotten how to nurture and foster its light and heat. I have been sent to ask you to give us some of your flame or we will not make it through the cold and wet winter.”

“You would like us to give you some of our flame?”

“Yes” the Guardsman exclaimed thinking his mission was over.

“We are known for our generosity. We would express that by giving you new flame. We are charged to be wise. We express that by determining the potential impact of our generosity.  We cannot give you the flame until we understand the impact of this gift on you and your villagers. We don’t know what you will do with it. We don’t know if you will cause a forest fire; extinguish it before it gets to the village. We don’t know if once you and the flame make it back to the village if that the flame will be strengthened or weakened. Because we don’t know these things, we cannot give you any flame.”

The Guardsman was shocked. He had risked his life and that of his horse’s to get to the neighboring village. He just wanted the flame. His village would figure out what to do with it. So he pleaded with the elders. He pleaded for a day and a half.

The elders listened and deliberated. Two days later the leader rose. “We have listened. We have felt your need and we know our concerns. We can give you flame under three conditions…”

And before the leader could finish, the Guardsman exclaimed: “Oh, yes” while thinking no conditions could possibly be imposed once he left camp.

The leader continued, “The first condition is that you can only take the flame once you show your understanding of its  limits; what makes it grow, what makes it die, how it is best tended, how it is defiled.”

“Oh, I can do that. I imagine you will give me instructions.”

“Second, we must feel assured that your village is capable of receiving this flame. As you are the only representative for the village, you will have to show us your abilities to manage the flame.”

“Give me the flame and I’ll tell you all that I will do with the flame. I will also tell you what I will tell my villagers, although they may decide to do something different.”

“And third,” continued the leader, undisturbed by the Guardsman’s interruptions: “we will require proof that the flame is being well tended and by…”

“Proof?” asked the Guardsman. “I only want some flame to take back to my village. Trust that I will do my best but I can’t control how my village uses the flame.”

“Then why are you here?” asked the leader and silence filled the tent, spilling out into the village and rippling into the bordering forest. An uncharacteristic chill accompanied this silence. Everyone felt it as they wrapped their blankets and shawls a little more tightly around their shoulders.     

“My villagers need this flame now. We are weak. We have no hope. We are in need.  We can’t go on much longer. Please, I beg you. Let me take the flame home now.” the Guardsman cried out.

The elders saw the look of fear and desperation in the Guardsman’s eye. They reconvened.  After their careful deliberation, the leader turned to the Guardsman and said: “We have made our decision. You will have the flame under the following condition: an elder will travel with you; you will pick one of your villagers to sit with our elder and learn about the meaning, care and maintenance of the flame you desperately request.”

The Guardsman was relieved. Not only would he have the strong flame for his village but he wouldn’t have to travel alone back through the thick and treacherous forest.

After three days of intense instruction the Guardsman and the Elder mounted their horses, and rode off to the Guardsman’s Village with the Flame tightly secured on the Guardsman’s horse. 

Conclusion next time



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