• Pridie Tiernan

Why we'll never tire of being by the fire...

Updated: Jun 19


It's funny, don't you think? That in a world so cluttered with stuff to do, people to see and places to go - all will still stop for a fire. You might be the busiest person in the world but you'll make time to stand, if only for a moment, next to a warm, flickering flame.

I often wonder what would happen if, for one great day, we would all light a fire at lunchtime - no matter where we were. Offices could seek an outside space, local high streets could boast a quick bonfire in a barrel on a bus lane. Would you stop by to stand and stare? I bet you would.

And what would happen next?

You'd turn to the person next to you and start to talk, of course.

I find that fire acts a little like a dog you might be walking. If you were to smile or - heaven forbid - stop and start talking to a random stranger in the park, you'd automatically be unconsciously branded by that other as mad. Have a dog to hand, however, and it's all of a sudden less sinister. Fire works in the same way. Weirdly, it grants us a pass to parley with whoever we might find ourselves near. It loosens our tongues, our hearts and our mind. I guess that's hardly surprising when you think that for 400,000 years it is around a fire that we have told tales, taught, created culture, solidified societies...

Anthropologist Alexander Marshak talks of how our distant ancestors "looked into the fire and saw flames with their physical eyes...then they closed their eyes and discovered they could also see flames burning in their mind's eye".

And, in Tim Dingle's article 'Fire! The Neurobiology of Storytelling', he writes of how '"stories told by firelight put listeners on the same emotional wavelength and elicited understanding, trust, and sympathy" and that stories "powerfully connect us to our listeners on a neural level." He writes of how, through the sharing of stories around the fire, we are able to "manipulate images, ideas or theories" and "come up with new ideas.​"

So fire...fires the imagination!

That's why I never say no to making one, however faffy it might be. When my girls ask for one - they get it. When we run a workshop - we have one (it's not even real yet it still enchants the children and kick-starts their creativity before we've even started!)

If it wasn't clear before, it should be now. No-one will ever tire of a little bit of fire!

#literacy #storytelling #fire #childlanguagedevelpment #imaginativeplay

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