writing by Josh Kline sound and image amr

Do you feel that fire and lightning are related? Why/why not?

I do not think they are related in a conventional or spiritual way, perhaps in an emotional way as they are both fearsome and destructive.

Going in to the woods is, itself, an invitation to the mystical. How does building fires in the woods invite that sense of mystery, or enhance it?

Building a fire is a blanket statement, how, when, where, and why are very important parts of explaining the moments associated with building a fire. The context of this question is the wood so I will try to explain the perspective a fire in the woods.

The wood impart a natural sense of shelter and so the fire becomes like a fire in the home. A fire ring creates a sense of returning and effort towards efficiency. A fire without ring is a baby fire. A baby home is being created. A fire in the woods is the mystery of home. There are dangers associated with fire, obviously a forest fire would be a disaster and so would burning down your own home.

The word build is important to the experience. For example building a fire with a stack of newsprint, dry kindling, and split seasoned logs is very different from building a fire from a pile of brush and a gallon of kerosene. Why a fire is built also changes the mystery to build a fire for warmth is different than building a fire to dispose of brush.

When I build a fire only to build a fire it invokes a sense of order, power, a “deep” ( in a deep philosophy way) humanness is brought to the space. Fires have become a creative process to me, there are many types of fires and many ways to experience them. Fire is the doorway which mankind walked when it left the natural world.

I can speak at great length on this question.

Does fire make the air/atmosphere feel lighter or heavier?


How do you feel instability plays in the plasma flame?

I do not see it as unstable. I see it as being purposeful to see fire as a living object with a purpose removes the instability and reveals the purposes of living.

Make a list of things you associate/connect with fire – you have 3 minutes:

Grand father, axes, bleeding hands, cold hands, hard hands, the strength of wood, wetness, fog, the sea, beaches, camping, banjo, whiskey, red wine, death, sadness, clarity, redwoods, the smell of oak and pine, burning eyes, the smell of burnt hair, meals, Amy, quiet.

When you say building fires in the wild is really exciting, name what’s exciting, and briefly write about that thing. The risk of losing control? Understanding how the molecules are behaving, but realizing you can’t perfectly predict all the dynamics? Is there a sense of magic involved? (Those are examples, you don’t have to answer those questions)

fundamentally building a fire in the wild is an act of defiance and a challenge to myself. I prefer to only bring matches and an axe. In a way it is experiencing the creation of life and humanity.

You said some interesting realizations came about. Can you explain?

Building a fire, results in a fire. So what do you do after you have built the fire. A chair would be nice. It is a delve to the primitive mind, first fire, then comfort, then shelter. Also a realization about the unpredictable wants of something that has only been theorized. In short create, experience, and remember. Beginning, middle, and end. Each step in the process can be more or less difficult and satisfying depending on the “support” I want to add a small foam pad to my fire kit. Matches, axe, small foam pad.

A fire is like a life it must be nurtured and attended to grow strong and it must be accompanied and managed to die gracefully.

How is making fire in the rain and/or snow exciting in a way that’s different from drier weather?

Its much harder and the responsibility of putting the fire out is not as great. In many ways it is only the stress of creation with out the stress of destruction

A fire in the woods is the mystery of home

— You kind of hit the surface of this, but I want you to go deeper: What is the motivation to make fire in the present world? We don’t need it (see technology), it presents danger, but it is emotionally (and perhaps spiritually) engaging. Does it fill a void?
Is it necessary to have an opportunity for building something in an era when most people don’t actually build anything? This is also a simple concept, but becomes complex when you introduce a variety of contexts (like you mentioned, the context of materials and/or weather).

Fundamentally I enjoy it on many different levels, it really encapsulates the human element that I strive for. Work hard enjoy the reward. I think the question of need has undermined a lot of wonderful things that humanity is capable of. There are a lot of things that we don’t need but think we do and vice versa. Ultimately a life that is only driven be need is a life with out choice, there is freedom in a life without choice and I think this is why as a society we are compelled to believe that need is the paramount criteria to determine the value between choices. For me, taking the effort and the time to create something that I don’t practically need is what compels me in life. I do what I want so that I have the freedom to do what I need. That may sound backwards but thats how I see it. For example I work a 9 to 5 because I want to and thus have the freedom to do what I need, creation of objects and moments.

The argument may sound backwards but that is the point that I am trying make on a whole I feel that we as society have confused want and need.

I need to build a fire, so I do

— “When I build a fire only to build a fire it invokes a sense of order, power. A “deep” (in a deep philosophy way) humanness is brought to the space.”
Please elaborate on the deep philosophical way that fire invokes humanness. You mentioned it being a creative act – is creativity a solely human quality? Or, is the drive to be, and pleasure gotten from being, creative something that is uniquely human? Don’t just answer in terms of creativity, expand out.

This is a tough one to answer, the closest explanation I can give pulls from mathematics and the ideas of linear expansions. The most commonly know version being a Fourier series. Even more specifically, I think of it as a Hilbert space with all the orthogonal vectors radiating from a central point.( yes, its is an infinitely dimensional space). The theme is that every function can be represented uniquely as a set of parameters that scale each of the orthogonal vectors.

The idea of deep humanism is that a certain set of “knowable qualities” are present in things that are truly human. I feel that fire is a very tangible experience that demonstrates many of the “vectors of humanism”. On a side note I feel that life in general has certain vectors associated with it. This is why NASA blast prime number strings out into space.

— You said “I see it as being purposeful. To see fire as a living object with a purpose removes the instability and reveals the purposes of living.”
Is this related to your reference of deep philosophy, of existence?
What are some of the purposes of living you’ve found through the seeing and contemplation of fire?
Do you feel you’ve gained a better understanding of life in a general sense, not just human life? If so, can you think of any examples?

I don’t have much to say about this. I suppose one of the concepts that I am trying to relay is that deep things are known without knowing and done without doing. A fire is and I enjoy it, there isn’t any more to it. The introspection and thought while watching the fire doesn’t really come from the conscious analysis it happens and it is done without doing. It is spontaneous, the realization that life is fleeting has been so many time related to flame. Life ends and the fire goes out. A dying romance, the flame is gone. An old flame. I am burnt out. Burning the candle at both ends Etc.

— If fire is living, what is its purpose, besides those we give it? How do you relate the purpose of living for a fire with the purpose of living for humans?

What is the purpose of humanity? Fire does not have purpose neither does humanity it just is. We can draw parallels between the two because we seem to exist in similar capacities and intents.

— If fire itself had a smell, what do you think it would smell like? (don’t say wood or smoke) Or what would the experience of “smelling” it be like?

Electric chlorine vapor

— Where do you place fire in terms of physics? Or, how do you understand fire in terms of physics?

— Make a list of: What comes to mind when you think about your own experience with Time in the presence of fire; in the woods, out back in the orchard, or in the back yard; any time of day.
Give yourself 5 minutes.

I think of working in a constructive way. A means to an ends. It really depends on the wood. A strong aromatic wood like a cedar or fresh pine becomes a meditative fire. Especially cedar it is a healing fire. I have been the keeper of the fire at large (white middle class )family festivals with lots of children and I have been the keeper of the fire at a Big Time (local tribe term for pow wow) there is no difference. The real feeling of fire for me is purpose and maintenance of that purpose.

— When you mentioned “fire, comfort, shelter” I wondered if we relive or remake that particular dynamic every time we go through it, or is it something we tap into that is always there affecting our perspective? This question starts getting at those things that keep us prisoner, those things we can transcend (or seem to transcend), and that which we’re bound by. Does fire have a place in there?

I am not sure that I really follow the question. I think that fire represents the original flee from bondage. The bondage of the element, the bondage of cold. Fire is the beginning of civilization so yes it does tap into a rebellion against nature. That rebellion is broad. Very much like life is a rebellion against death. Fire is the skeleton key to natures house of doors.

— Create, experience, remember – beginning, middle, end. It’s very linear in time. Is there a way that you feel fire (or building a fire, etc.) augments or distorts the linearity of time? Does it access a non-linear “dimension”, either literally or metaphorically, or both?

Interesting question. Fire as individual event is very linear however there are such things as Great Fires. A great fire is non-linear in time, it connects to all other Great fires in ones life. Perhaps these great fires are what drive to make more fires. My grandfathers death I had great fire. Being fire keeper at the Big Time was a great fire. Once camping on the north coast I had a great fire Amy has a video of it. The first fire at the first little houses festival was a great fire. I once made a fire in the snow under a rock at the Grand Canyon. The fire department came once and said my fire was too great, that was a great fire. When I begin any fire I remember the great fires and they all become one moment, or perhaps time loses its direction and pace and moments become meaningless. Many fires do not become a great fire and that is okay. Not all fires can or should be a great fire.

363 (1)

a series of “chats” with Josh Kline – philosopher, Aikido practicioner, cyber security, electronics, builder, physics, mechanic, friend, teacher, father, fire-keeper

by Chris Parmalee – artist

sound photo and video by amy reed


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