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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:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp
From the June 2014 issue
Percentage increase in the annual number of polio cases in Pakistan since 2005:
A bowl of 4,000-year-old noodles was found in northwestern China; and a spokesman for the Chinese Academy of Sciences said that “this is the earliest empirical evidence of noodles ever found.”
A federal judge sentenced the journalist Barrett Brown to 63 months in prison for sharing a link to information stolen from the private-intelligence firm Stratfor by a hacker in 2011. “Good news!” Brown said in a statement. “They’re now going to send me to investigate the prison-industrial complex.”
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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.”