Twigs on a Fire
by Donald K. Sanders
The men of my family have always been at war with themselves. Something in our hearts forces this upon us, like the dark and the light oppose each other.
Farther out, in the sphere of nature, man fights against man. They kill each other for ideas or possessions — it really doesn’t matter. When we’re dead, we flow together like fluid under the Earth. We become so close, you no longer can tell one from the other.
I think maybe we’re all just part of one big soul like twigs in one big fire. Each twig burns and becomes something else, many times, in many different forms. Death is the source of birth and birth is the source of death.
I remember my father when he was dying. He was old and gray. He was but a shell of the man that I’d seen only once before. I asked him if he knew me.
“I don’t think so,” he said.
“Are you afraid to die?” I asked. He shook his head.
He was calm in the face of death. I hope I can face it the same way. I wonder what it will be like when I know that this is my last breath. I wonder how it will be when I’m dead.
Weeks later, in Tennessee, my father lay dead in his coffin. I saw the death in him. As hard as I looked, I could find nothing beautiful or uplifting about going back to God.
I’ve heard people talk about immortality, but I’ve not seen any of it. I wonder where it’s hidden, this immortality. I wonder if there is such a thing and who would want it.
The Earth seems to grow smaller every day. It squeezes us together. I think that as we grow closer and closer, the greater the fear. Fear is an idea that draws one hand against another until blood lies upon the Earth where we stand. I can only speculate as to the reason for this.
Three times, I looked upon my father’s face. Once in a Battle Creek hospice, once in a funeral parlor, and once when I was very young. He slammed my face on the corner of a sink until my face and jaw were broken.
I don’t think that this act was rooted in hate. I was 7 years old, so I was too young to have done him some wrong. I don’t know why I think it so, but I know that he loved me: I was his son.
I think that he was broken, like me, but in a much more critical manner. Whatever the reason, I was forced to live without him and he without me. It is the same with over half of our families, yours and mine. War, hate and violence will always turn us against ourselves.
I killed a man once, when I was just a kid in a uniform. I think that’s worse than rape, almost as bad as betrayal. No one can ever touch me for it. Just the same, I’m brought low by its memory.
After something like that, how can I ever see things the way that you do? You think that there’s a world out there where everything will be okay. There is only one world — yours is the same as mine.
There is one great passion that holds us together and apart. Every person on this earth was born to love freedom. This passion rises from a common spring where everyone should be free to quench his thirst.
Recent world events have both broken and healed my heart. The Eastern and Middle Eastern world is lost in turmoil. Sorrow of great proportion finds us reaching across the world to Japan. The Middle East is also full of sorrow. It’s different but it’s the same. It is in the Middle East where I see the great hope. Their sorrow is not natural in composition, but forced upon them by men who take the freedom of others for themselves.
There, oppression is open and rampant. It is alarming to observe, but it has its own reward. It has the coming together of all nations in one mighty ball that will roll like thunder. It finally rolls in the right direction with the hand of all nations behind it.
As insignificant as this may seem, it is in fact the greatest of historical events. It is a mighty step toward world governance by the United Nations. Should it survive to take more, new steps, it might just save us as a species.
I don’t think there’s another option for us. If ever an event was worth praying for it has to be this. The United Nations and the uniting of man like so many twigs in a fire.