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For what is man’s soul but a flame. It flickers in and around the body of a man as does the flame around the rough log.
Now, one winter’s night, when the folk who sat around the fire had been silently gazing into the flames for a while, the fire began to speak to one and all, in their own language.
“Brother soul,” it would say to one, “are you not a log, too? Why are you so sad and heavy?”
“Sister flame,” would answer the human soul, “I have been chopping wood and minding the housework all day. I want nothing better than to sit still and watch you.”
“I know,” said the fire. “But, now it is evening, do as I do, shine and sparkle! Fun and warmth!”
And the souls obeyed the fire and began to play. They told stories, guessed riddles, they tuned the fiddles and hung garlands on the tools and implements. Then they sang songs, played forfeits, and recalled old proverbs, thus thawing the ice out of their limbs, the peevishness out of their minds. They woke up and were merry, for the fire renewed in their hearts the wish to live out their humble and difficult lives.
–Selma Lagerlöf, Kristuslegender (1904)
More from Scott Horton:
Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp
From the June 2014 issue
No Comment — March 28, 2014, 12:32 pm
On CIA secrecy, torture, and war-making powers
Estimated additional hours Americans would spend stoned annually if marijuana were legal in most states:
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University said that most alcohol-related airplane accidents happen at night and in bad weather.
A waitress in Chengdu ate a cockroach in response to a complaint by a customer who had discovered the bug in his salad. “You will always find cockroaches in the food,” she told him. “It is very normal.”
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“I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.”