There’s something mesmerising about fire. You can just sit and stare, and you don’t know why.
You’re there for the warmth, of course, but there’s more to it than that. And it’s something that fascinates people of all ages – and always has done.
Our ancestors, Neanderthal men and women, used fire for warmth, for cooking..and for protection. Fire extended the length of the day, providing light as well as heat, and fire warded off predatory animals and insects. Fire was the place where humans socialised, where they felt safe as well as warm.
But why, thousands of years later, with electric lighting, solar-powered central heating, and efficient cooking facilities, does fire still have that powerful attraction?
One theory is that humans are born with an instinct to learn how to build and control fire, and if we don’t get that chance to master it, the fascination remains with us through our lives.
A child born ten thousand years ago – or fifty thousand or a hundred thousand – needed fire to survive and soon learned how to master it.
But today what we burn as fuel and how we build fires can differ according to place and circumstance. Some people have woodburning stoves in their homes. Others are dab hands at building a bonfire once a year.
And increasingly, there’s the attraction of a firepit or chimenea in the garden on a summer night. This is different from a barbecue; it’s not there for any real purpose, other than the wonderful chance to bond with others.
People tell stories around a fire; they always have done. People sing songs around a fire, and make music. Craftsmen make fires for a purpose, to make charcoal, which can then be used by artists.
And the rest of us? We just sit, and stare. We might see pictures in the flames. We might be inspired by the light of a fire. But the attraction of fire never fades.