Sometimes I Dream That Nothing Can Burn

I’m sure we all have fantasies in  our quiet moments–maybe we fantasize about what we would do if we won the lottery, or if we had superpowers, or maybe we furnish our dream home in our minds, right down to flower boxes in the windows and the happy old dog on the porch. We fantasize about nice things, good things, things that show us a small part of the world as we wish it could be.

For several months I have been visited by a different kind of fantasy–I dream that nothing can burn, or more specifically, that some kind of strange Deus Ex Machina situation has occurred that has indefinitely suspended the physical/chemical ability for all matter on earth to ignite (note that I am excluding extraterrestrial bodies like the sun; I really want the sun to stay on fire).

What does this mean? This means, of course, that no one would be able to burn fossil fuels, since they wouldn’t ignite. We would have to find different ways to power our homes and our vehicles (and our machines of industry, for such industries that would still exist). We would need to adapt, and we would need to adapt quickly. Though it would be very hard at first (and I do worry about those poor folks who depend on wood or peat fires for their cookstoves), we would find another way to live, one that didn’t destroy our planet and ourselves along with it. It’s a nice idea, and I wish that we could all start living as if things don’t burn, as if fossil fuels aren’t an option (which they someday won’t be, but once we realize that it might be too late). We know change is coming, we know we can’t live the way we do now indefinitely, and I wish we could start bringing this change into our present. The future you choose is better than the future that is forced upon you.

My fantasy would also mean that guns, which rely on the ignition of gunpowder to send the bullet out of the gun and ripping through some family’s heart, wouldn’t work. Guns wouldn’t work. Desperate angry people would put on their masks and their hatred and they would arrive at the Bataclan in Paris or at a Planned Parenthood centre in Colorado Springs or the Inland Regional Centre in San Bernardino or at the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston or the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown or the École Polytechnique in Montreal and they would pull their triggers and nothing would happen. No one would be a victim that day and no one would be a murderer.

We would still hurt each other just as we always have–with sticks and stones and steel and fists–and in some new ways too (such is technology). But it wouldn’t be so easy. It wouldn’t be so ridiculously, ludicrously, horrifyingly and heart-breakingly easy.

Why can’t we live as if killing each other, and ourselves, is not such an easy thing? If you’ve ever loved anyone, you know that their life, human life, is the dearest gift there is.

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