What is fire made of?


Everyone knows that, right?

Phlogiston is a substance found in all objects that are capable of burning. When it gets hot enough, it incandesces, lives in a flaming form for a while, and then evaporates into smoke, leaving behind the charred remains of the dephlogistated material, robbed of colour and excitement.

That’s one theory anyway.

Another is that fire is made of fire. It’s a primal element, obviously, like earth, water and air (and love, according to hippies like Luc Besson, in what I suspect is the film I’ve seen the most times). Fire is present in all those things that can set fire to (again, that’s a theme) and is good at creating forms of earth, eating air, and is not a big fan of water.

That’s another theory, even older than the first.

I imagine there was a lot of time spent thinking about dancing spirits. I mean, if I’m honest, I’ve always known roughly how fire works, and still, if I’m at a campfire, I get entranced and stare deep into the raging flickering heat, and all I can think of is tiny little sprites and demons twirling and bouncing and fighting around each other.

But that’s not what happens.

Combustion occurs when the circumstances are right for rapid oxidation of a substance, emitting heat and light and other substances. The flame itself is just a mix of various gasses, full of little bits of things that incandesce, producing light. It’s uses lots of energy, and a side effect of this is exothermia, which is a posh (and innaccurate, I kinda made it up a bit) way of saying it gives off heat.

Science is amazing, and I have real, complete respect for facts.

But sometimes I prefer romance. And fire is one of those things I feel in my belly. I can never work out what that fire is made of, partly because it’s just a perception of some other excitement. It’s just a way of describing an internal tickle, a heating and exciting energy building up to my stomach and releasing smoke out of my chest and mouth.

This is what excitement, arousal and good music feel like to me. Sometimes.

Sometimes I feel this tension build from beneath me and rise up through me until I am expanding and exploding outward, and am burst across the walls around me, left destructed and withered and wonderful.

Maybe that’s fire.

It’s odd that ‘I’m on fire’ is such a common statement (mostly in music, admittedly). I mean. It wouldn’t actually be good. It would hurt a lot and probably result in severe damage.

But our brains are romantic. Fire isn’t just a chemical process to our symbolic and imaginative minds, it’s an expression of energy. It’s heat and light and life. It is sustenance. It is explosions and destruction. It’s danger and usefulness all at once.

So we feel it in our belly and let it flicker around our hearts.

Imagination sets me on fire.

Illustrated by Anna-Kaisa.

About Alabaster Crippens

Joiner of Dots. Player of Games. Unreliable Narrator. Dancing Fool.
This entry was posted in Illustrations by Anna-Kaisa, Questions by Sandra. Bookmark the permalink.

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