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The Fire Within – A Life Metaphor

By Stephen C. Schultz

Editors Note: This is an excerpt from some of the material that teens and young adults learn while at RedCliff Ascent. Much of the work that is done by students is to gain physical competency, develop emotional insight and demonstrate improved maturity.


In the time before this one, there was a great excitement in the sky country. It was the day of giving. All of the spirit people were going to receive a gift from the Creator, whatever they wanted.  There was a lot of pushing and shoving (even some fighting), in the long line that led up to the lodge of the sky father. As each spirit approached the Maker, they knelt and asked for a gift, one that they thought might help them in the world below.  Some wanted cunning, some strength, or keen eyes or ears. Some asked for the ability to run fast, to fly high, or to dig low. There were also those who wanted to live on the land, and those who wanted to live under the water. To each one was given according to their need, and to their heart.

Finally, the last spirit entered the lodge and bowed low before the Maker. "Man", said the Creator, "what is it that you desire?”   "Lord", answered man, "I have thought so long on that.... that I ended up being last in line! I have decided that only you are wise enough to know what is best for me, I bow to your will."  The Creator thought to Himself, "There may be hope for this one yet." He opened His almost empty medicine bundle, and there found some scraps of fur and some cast off scales, He gave these to man as hair and nails. In it was also some blunt teeth and bits of color-these He placed in mans eyes and mouth.  After a few other adjustments, He sat back and looked at what He had made.

"Not too bad, looks a little like me", He mused, "but he's bound to starve or get eaten if he doesn't have something else".  He thought for a long moment, and then said, "And the first shall be last and the last shall be first." Taking up a stick from the ground, He plucked out one of His own hairs and placed it on the wood. It burst into a bright yellow flame.  This torch he handed over to man, saying, "With this thing, fire, you may rule over the other animals, and the world, you can make many wonderful things, stay warm in the cold and see in the darkness. But be careful, if you do not use it wisely, it will destroy you and all of your kin."  "How do I use it wisely?" asked man.

"That is for you to discover," replied God.

Whether this story is true or not doesn’t matter, it is true that out of all of the creatures on this planet, we are the only one who posses fire.  In some way it is our birthright, if you think about it, fire is the only one of the elements that we can create.  We cannot make air, or water, or even dirt, but fire - that we can make. 

Yet as it says in the story, fire is a dangerous servant - that which can warm can also burn.  The same power that cooks your food can destroy a city.  You are much like that, the same talents and abilities that are in you can be as bright as a flame, or dark as a dead coal, only you can decide which.

We know that, the world being the way it is, you will probably never have to start a bow-drill fire again once you leave here.  So why do we ask you to do so many of them?  Primitive cultures continued to exist based on their ability to create, use and control fire.  They used it for lighting, cooking, and to stay warm.  We still rely on this basic form of energy today for staying warm, or cooking.  Without conventional means to light fire, such as matches or lighters, you must rely on primitive fire building skills.  The primitive people learned how to craft tools from their surroundings that would enable them to make fires.  This was a trial and error period for them, but as they failed each time they learned from it.  Survival out in society depends on the skills and tools you develop and apply.  Making your first fire can be a metaphor, or symbolic of many areas of your life.  You will discover that what you will learn with this experience can be applied to things such as family relationships, work, hobbies, etc.  

There are six methods of “Primitive” fire making that we can teach here, they are: bow drill, flint and steel, Egyptian, hand drill, pump drill, fire plow.   (Bow drill and hand drill are the primary techniques, after you have mastered them, you may ask your instructor to teach you other methods if it interests you).

Learn more

You can learn more about RedCliff Ascent and how these methods assist families and teens through difficult and trying times. Some families get frustrated because their son or daughter appears to be "Treatment Resistant".  Many of the students who attend RedCliff Ascent are struggling with concerns over family relationships, substance use, depression, anxiety, autism spectrum disorder and numerous co-occurring symptoms.


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