It was twilight in my garden when Fire first struck up a conversation with me. She was bragging about her power to rapidly recycle life, to instantly decompose dry wood to ashen dust. Beautiful, wild, and alluring as she was, I feared her. I feared her not because she threatened a death I knew ultimately, intimately, and inextricably tied to life– my life and the life of every living being around me. I feared her because this night her messianic tone seemed to promise that a particular fire, an unnatural wild fire, was now playing out across the birthplace of my once Fertile Crescent home. Given its extraordinarily dry and angry heat, this fire, she warned, had the soul and potential source to precipitate a very dangerous end-end war game to the natural cycle of life. For the first time, I feared a fire that might one day rage completely out of control and cause a death to beget only more and more death– until the living jewels of our society were finally consumed, our future burnt to the ground, and a scorched earth left behind…followed by a long period of silence. For the first time, I contemplated the possibility of a fire so intense and so widespread so as to actually divorce itself from its partner in life.

This fire I simply could not ignore, nor allow, not in my lifetime, nor on my streets, not in my home community. So with great fear and resolve I moved closer to fire’s flame and began my inquiry into her Natura Vera. I knew she held the secret to averting our ISIS crisis. I knew the secret laid in understanding the nature of fire, in her burning desire to destroy. I knew the secret was also hidden in death’s life partner, in lighting more of herself in my now very dark and dusty home. I knew Fire held the secret key to breaking this unnatural fire’s lethal lock on the cycle of destruction… and I was determined to understand it, even at the risk of being burnt.

So I set out on a quest to learn fire’s nature — to neutralize this wild conflagration in our backyard and to reclaim the natural cycle of fire that supports life here on The Peninsula in healthy, regenerative ways. Moving ever closer to her heat and after listening intently to her crackle and pop for hours, she finally responded to me by bursting forth her flaming heart and turning to devour an already burning bush. I was horrified. But as her embers showered me with stinging sparks, I nevertheless caught glimpses of Fire’s Nature. I witnessed firsthand– her behavior, her strategies for spreading, her rejuvenating possibility, and her ultimately transformative power. This wisdom I want to share with you, so that we can squelch the unnatural fire spreading across the Middle East and rather ignite another fire, a regenerative fire in our communities. Then life can beget life more fully and abundantly again here in my home.

Our Fire Nature 

I come from the verdant lands above the ancient sands of the once Fertile Crescent- a contiguous bioregion in the Middle East. Our family home sits at the crossroads of the hot savannah-deserts – southwest, and the cool forest-mountains — northeast. Again, my people were among the first agrarian civilizations to cultivate grains 10,000 years ago along a tributary of the Tigris. They then later traded nature’s abundance with other peoples from distant lands along the Silk Road. I sometimes wonder what would have happened to our bioregion if the Treaty of Versailles at the end of World War I had gone a different way for King Faisal I of Iraq and for the aspiring independent (yet fragmented and tribal) Pan-Arab New World he stood for? Might our Fertile Crescent have matured into a thriving, interdependent economic center in the 21C? Were former President Woodrow Wilson’s 14 policy points on free trade, democracy, and self-determinism appropriate, ideal, or practical for our very different world than the US? Then? Now?

What do you think? (Please comment and share your thoughts.)

Indeed, we were (and are) gardeners and explorers. We were born to steward this infinitely vibrant and richly cultured land. And, we still represent a diverse Babylonia of traditions and people. Our Islamic roots–they run only a few generations deep. We are a young faith, seeking healthy world soils and welcoming gardens. That said, Islam is ancient in its wisdom and also serves as a positive unifying force among us. At the core (as in most faith traditions), the Koran teaches love of a higher-universal power, strong family values, prayer, pilgrimage, and care for others in need. Fire is a natural force in our cross-cultural ecosystem. It is hot here. And we are a passionate people who can indeed run hot. So then, we must also become proficient fire-keepers, clever mediators, and rational negotiators… to keep the peace. That would be naturally intelligent, right?

Stay Tuned: Part II: An Unnatural Fire Spreading Today