On Acknowledging Impotence


The world is out of control. You can’t get a job, someone you love is sick, you’re keeping a secret that’s killing you, it’s a million things, a thousand cuts. The last twelve years have been exceedingly wearying for the world, I think, and our leader’s current inability to create a background noise of normalcy and possibility certainly feeds into a feeling of imminent demise, that it’s all actually going off the rails, that the planet is rolling awkwardly on its path. It could all break loose any day. Anything can happen. If we aren’t growing towards something then we must be dying.

I don’t know what to say about this. I have a hard time articulating how I feel and how many around me feel without appealing to poetics of some kind. I know that everyone I speak to is tired and feel like they aren’t being looked out for because everyone is too frightened for themselves. Anxiety runs hot and red in their veins. They’re always on the precipice staring down at a stormy sea that never seems to calm, white capped waves, frothing with rage. It’s all against you. It won’t change. This is how it is now.

I don’t believe that but I know the feeling and that brings me to what I think is the ultimate acknowledgement of impotence, self immolation. Metaphorically it seems to be the ultimate protest against the world’s state of affairs. It strikes me as primal, a forcible return to dust and ash, a time when the world was dark and quiet and red, an appeal to the spirit beyond the grave, a prayer to a God sitting forever in a silent cave where light is unable to shine.

It is horror, it is amazing, it is mystifying. It’s a final attempt to get clean of “it.” Fire cleans, if nothing else.


Human kind has a long history of this and what I’ve always been struck by is how calm the people who do this are. Is it nirvana and then exit? Is that why they’re so calm?


How?! How does he stand and not scream? How does he walk and not speak? He doesn’t rave. He doesn’t accuse. He simply merges with the fire and becomes like a spirit inside the flame. These men don’t want attention. That time is long passed now. I have to ask if this is the collective animal that is humanity spasming at its own pain. I honestly wonder if these are warnings of some kind. Are these sores breaking out on the grand human body? Is this a warning of disease?

In the case of Tunisia, Mohamed Bouazizi burned himself to death in the middle of a market and it lit the entire country on fire. People said, unironically, that he was a spark, and he was. The government overturned almost immediately. The fire did burn clean.


But back to the phenomenon itself, this is not escapism or a submission to misery. This is not “suicide.” This is a demonstration of something innate and frightening. This is something speaking through a mouth of flame and ruin and for the life of me I can’t make out what the depths of it are saying.