Origins of my book about fire

So now I have decided to write a blog about the process of writing my book about fire, and here is the first entry. I hope it will be a useful exercise to step back and scrutinize my process at some level of abstraction, and even result in something of interest to anyone who stumbles across these musings.

This project grew out of my work as Worship Associate at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, California. Offered the opportunity to lead a worship service, I asked myself what subject I might address in a sermon. Having attended the Burning Man festival over a dozen times, an event where many attendees use fire as a celebratory spiritual practice, I decided to center my service on fire. In preparation I looked for books about fire and spirituality, or the meanings humans have imagined for fire over the centuries.

To my great surprise, no such book exists. Though plenty of books have been written about fire, they primarily focus on the history of practical uses of fire, fire prevention, famous fire disasters, and fire in particular cultural traditions. No author has comprehensively addressed the subject of fire and the human imagination. Toni Morrison once said “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it yourself.” So here I am six years later, fourteen chapters drafted of a planned nineteen, beginning to look for a publisher.

It may be that no-one has ever taken on the subject in such breadth because no-one with any credentials to write about some aspect of the subject would imagine tackling such an ambitious project, inevitably requiring venturing well outside any particular field. in researching this book I have had to educate myself in many disciplines including anthropology, archaeology, theology, history of religion, mythology, cosmogony, eschatology, and the history of science. I have no real credentials in any of these fields; the audacity of the outsider may be my main advantage. Though I have many published (and unpublished) writing projects to my credit, as detailed on the Selected projects page, this will be my first full-length book. The process has been exhilarating and fulfilling. As the prospect nears of completing the project, I look forward to seeing it make its way in the world.

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