A Fire in the House of My Fathers

article-2604758-0017a00e00000258-171_634x431Once upon a time, there was a family. They built a house together. It was a fine house: sturdy, with an excellent foundation. But the family had enemies. Sometimes it was enemies from the outside. Sometimes, sad to say, it was rogue family members. Regardless of who the enemy was, the tactic was always the same. They would light the house on fire. In the early days, the family was vigilant. They would constantly check to make sure the house was not burning. If it was, when someone called “Fire in the parlor!” or “Fire in the Back Room!”, the entire family would rush to that room and put out the fire.

Once, there was an evil branch of the family that was very dedicated to destroying the house. They managed to light lots of little fires at the same time. When the cry went up, “Fire in the East Wing!” the rest of the family put out the fire, but it was too late to save some of the rooms. An entire wing of the house was destroyed. But the family dutifully rebuilt as best they could.

This time though, something had changed. The family was tired of fighting fires. Now, when a fire was lit, the family was not quite so quick to respond. The urgency was gone. “But we fought a major fire and won. So, fire is not really a danger anymore.”

This time when the cry was heard, “Fire in the kitchen!” some in the family responded, “You always say there is a fire in the kitchen. But what about the Dining Room? There is smoke there as well. If you will not also acknowledge the smoke in the Dining Room, then you should not complain about the fire in the kitchen.” And others responded, “Sure our kitchen is on fire, but the neighbor’s entire house is aflame. Why can’t you focus on the good we have, instead of the problems? It could be worse.” Some said, “Until you have spoken privately to whomever lit the fire, you can not even cry ‘Fire'”. And still others said, “If you are complaining about a fire in the kitchen, what does that say about the rooms near it? Why are you complaining about those rooms?” And some even said, “You know, if you don’t like this house the way it is, fire and all, you can just leave.”

And those who called attention to the fire were puzzled. In the past, those same people would stand shoulder to shoulder and arm in arm, as they fought the fire together. But now, it seemed that it was more important to justify all the places that were not on fire, rather than fighting against the places that were on fire. It’s not that their beloved family members were lighting fires. They were not trying to destroy the house. But they got mad at those who pointed out new fires.

And so, fewer and fewer family members were willing to call out “Fire.” Until finally, everyone just sat in the living room, watching the great old house burn down around them, and discussing how well crafted the falling timbers had been.

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