Fire in the Sky

Lord Macaulay had memorably observed that the puritan hated bear baiting, not because it gave pain to the bear, but because it gave pleasure to the spectators. Given that puritanism forms the backbone of much of Anglo-Saxon society, it is not surprising that this principle has survived in the West, where, with the exception of sports (which has been reduced to a business like any other), governments do not promote the kind of "irrational" activities that result in collective pleasure.

An exception is the practice of public fireworks display, be it on the anniversary of America's independence or Guy Fawkes Night in England. Fortuitous circumstances led to my spending this Fourth of July with my sister in the New England area, where after much deliberation, we decided to join half a million Bostonians to view 16,000 pounds of explosives literally go up in smoke!

The Boston Commons was a sight to behold, as thousands of enthusiastic families lay scattered all over the park, with or without a sheet to protect themselves from the damp grass. The picnic mood was accentuated by the cool breeze blowing in from the Charles river, while the variety of colour and costume was a study in contrasts, skewed somewhat by the presence of Chinatown a stone's throw away. As adults huddled together and children roamed around in gay abandon, the crowded scene appeared to be an artist's macabre interpretation of William Blake's Songs of Experience and Songs of Innocence.

However as soon as the first firework launched skyward shattering the darkness in a wild explosion of colour, every pair of wakeful eyes fixed itself to the unfolding spectacle like a well-trained orchestra following the baton of an invisible conductor. And the synchronized exclamation of delight escaping from unanimous lips is possibly the most rewarding sound an artist can hope to hear. In that instant, one could feel the kinship between humans as they stood in awe before mysterious forces greater than themselves that have haunted their primitive ancestors forever-- the seductive strength of beauty and the primeval power of fire.

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favour fire.
Robert Frost, Fire and Ice

1 comment:

Altamont said...

A beautiful account - loved it. A great way to begin and end a story .