Fire and Space

Posted on Thursday, July 21, 2011 in Leadership



What makes a fire burn
is space between the logs,
a breathing space.
Too much of a good thing,
too many logs
packed in too tight
can douse the flames
almost as surely
as a pail of water would.

So building fires
requires attention
to the spaces in between,
as much as to the wood.

When we are able to build
open spaces
in the same way
we have learned
to pile on the logs,
then we can come to see how
it is fuel, and absence of the fuel
together, that make fire possible.

We only need to lay a log
lightly from time to time.
A fire
simply because the space is there,
with openings
in which the flame
that knows just how it wants to burn
can find its way.

-Judy Brown

This week I have the pleasure of instructing virtual training sessions on “Teaching with Heart, Purpose, and Passion” for two teachers, Emily and Lori, who will teach in high schools in China in the fall.

I sent Emily and Lori a bunch of poems by email and asked them to read the poems and select the one that spoke the most to her.

Lori, a Buddhist, picked “Fire.”  When I asked her what lines, words, images and metaphors stood out for her in the poem, she said she “loves the idea of the spaces in between.”   She is as attracted to the spaces in between as to the wood. 

I am with her.  I like silence.  I like stillness.  And I like the white spaces on this page.  Sometimes I like the white spaces more than the words.  Sometimes I like silence more than sound, especially if that sound is noise.  

The spaces make the fire possible. 

Too many leaders suffocate others.  They pile things on. 

A task of leadership is to create spaces for people’s natural fire to find its way.

 Image:  Matthewvenn

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