1540 c/o Antony Grow

Why We Set Our Hair on Fire.

We Are: imminent and proud and far and few between. Out of our houses and apartments and rivers and mountains, we gather in groups and celebrate. We come out of our families, our jobs, our educations, and our retirements. When you see what we do, you will feel as if you are naked in front of someone. Yes, it is beautiful.

We Are Not: you, but we are you, but we are so unlike you. We have no anthem or music, but we have breath and we breathe. We are human beings. We are humans being. We are free.

Becoming: it’s simple really. I have seen people do it several ways, but the most common practice involves coating your scalp and surrounding area with a thin layer of petroleum jelly. Those that are newer to the experience will usually overcoat themselves because they have not yet extinguished the fears that setting your hair on fire usually affords. These are the people that can still only focus on the future, the ones that live comfortably in not knowing what tomorrow will bring, but find solace in the fact that a tomorrow is there. You don’t see them twice because it wasn’t joy they were searching for. Most don’t understand what joy even is. It is mistaken for happiness and freedom when in fact it is something with far more weight. Imagine the heaviest thing in between your arms. Now imagine more and it feeling wonderful, excruciatingly perfect. What they mistook for joy was actually discovery, and when what they found has been discovered, they can only turn around and go back and start all over again. Now they will have something interesting to say at a dinner party, something to say around the water cooler at work, but inside they will still be unhappy and their search will continue. The small scar on their forehead or the patch of missing hair will act as a reminder of a moment in time when they understood and then forgot it again.

When I discuss what I do with people, the first question usually asked is: Are you not afraid? Do you not fear? And I say no, I am not. No, I do not fear. The experience is one that when described sounds less than it is. It’s something that has to be seen before the true concept can be understood. There is sometimes yelping and dancing from the excitement. All Fire-heads seem to do it differently, but there is the universal run that takes place. I have yet to see anyone simply stand in one place as they set their hair on fire, but the pattern of running changes with each person.

Some run in what could be described as a figure eight. Others simply go every which way until it is over and they ponder what all the fuss was about. Sometimes you will meet people that just run – one straight line – into oblivion. You never see them again. Once their hair has been ignited, they will turn around and run in the opposite direction and they never come back. The next time that people gather for this, they will be there. You ask them, where did you go? And they reply, I just ran. I just ran and ran.

There are those that we call The Organics. These are the ones that live like hermits until their day. They grow their hair out so long that one wonders what kind of living they make for themselves that permits them to do so. When the day comes they don’t concern themselves with safety or showmanship. They pin their hair up into a makeshift bun and ignite it. Most Fire-Heads wait until the designated time and place every year in order to have some sort of camaraderie in the experience, but Organics will do it at any time, ignoring all social mores. These are the ones that also make the local news or are arrested for causing public disturbances.

I have heard the accounts of some Fire-Heads that say afterwards, they were able to hear the birds sing. Some say that food is better and that their sex is richer. I’ve heard one man say that even paper feels wonderful. When he pays the bills, when he types reports at his job, he can stop and feel the paper in between his fingers and it feels wonderful like the softest skin. There are people coming from everywhere with these feelings (I recently met a man from as far as Taiwan).

The first thing you will notice is that you will stop getting angry. Arguments become those which are beneath you, that you simply don’t understand the purpose of anymore. There is also a friendliness that begins to come from inside of you. You want to be friends with everyone and people seem to want to be friends with you. You will have the feeling of a magnet as if you are the center of everything. Things seem to rush at you from every direction and you are there, calmly, with open arms accepting it all.