Life and Passions Self-improvement

What It Means to Carry the Fire

We’ve talked about this before—this idea of carrying the fire. It’s a concept that comes to us from the beautiful and haunting novel The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Set in an apocalyptic world, one that echoes Rome in the aftermath of the Antonine Plague or even our own days of pandemics and unprecedented unemployment, the novel follows a young boy and his father who are trying to survive in a world of darkness.

The father inspires and instills purpose in his young son by telling him that they are carrying the fire. Everyone else has become selfish, sadistic, even murderous. But this small boy? He is good. He remains true. He and his father have drawn hard lines about what they will not do, even if it comes at the cost of their survival. They retain, as hard as it is, some hope. They help people when they can, and even when wronged, they try not to give into hate or fear.

We can imagine themselves repeating to themselves, as we must try to repeat to ourselves in our own dark times, these words from Marcus Aurelius:

No matter what anyone says or does, my task is to be good. Like gold or emerald or purple repeating to itself, “No matter what anyone says or does, my task is to be emerald, my color undiminished.”

Courage. Temperance. Justice. Wisdom. That’s our task. That’s the fire that we are carrying, a fire that is sadly very rare these days. But we must soldier on—we must keep the soldier’s faith. Because it’s the only thing we can do, because it’s the only hope when things go dark.

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