On Fireworks

Yes, on fireworks. Because here in the USA, many of us have just celebrated the 4th of July, or Independence Day. (Or as some now propose it be more fittingly called, Interdependence Day.)

As I was watching a fireworks show near New York City last night, I was wondering why I am so taken by them, and why so many other people are, as well. What makes those pops, streaks, shimmers, bangs, sizzles, whistles, all that arcing, spinning, soaring, fluttering, each of those high golds, hyper reds, starry whites so arresting? Is there anything about human life that makes us recognize ourselves in fireworks?

Advertisement

As I let myself once again delight in sizing up that uniquely predictable-unpredictable event called "fireworks," I realized that I myself was being sized up. The measure of my own life was being taken in each firework. Which one best expresses what I have lived and what can yet happen? Is my life, is yours, more like the understated primary-color circle that blows gently outward and fades gracefully, or more like the crackly yellow-whirling wildfish that, after seeming to fade, reburst into surprising rainbows of aircake?

Some communal rituals have found fireworks friendly elaborations of their purpose. For example, rock shows sometimes incorporate pyrotechnics or conclude with fireworks. And fire is an ancient element of what we now refer to as "religion." Explosions, not so much. However...

Here is a celebration of Our Lady of Aparecida in Brazil -- with fireworks:

 

And here -- with fireworks -- is a Kiss show in Buenos Aires. (Note: not all America readers will be Kiss fans.)

Is there something about fireworks that calls to us about ourselves? Watching a fireworks show is like seeing in fast-forward so many ways of having existence go. There goes one lovely configuration, and here is a stunning one, there whimsical, here a confusing riot, there elegant, and the occasional tragedy, the "dud." Are fireworks a rehearsal and display of some truth about the flash of our existence?

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Crystal Watson
6 years ago
I guess I'll be the one wet blanket and say that I don't like fireworks.  They pollute the air, kill birds, start fires, cause injuries. I know it's unpopular to say this, given all the romanticizing of fireworks - they're even in The Lord of the Rings  ;)

Advertisement

The latest from america

So what does it matter what a celibate woman thinks about contraception?
Helena BurnsJuly 20, 2018
Former US President Barack Obama gestures to the crowd, during an event in Kogelo, Kisumu, Kenya, Monday, July 16, 2018. (AP Photo Brian Inganga)
In Johannesburg, Obama gave what some commentators consider his most important speech since he vacated the Oval Office.
Anthony EganJuly 20, 2018
With his "Mass," Leonard Bernstein uses liturgy to give voice to political unease.
Kevin McCabeJuly 20, 2018
Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, arrives for the Jan. 6 installation Mass of Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, N.J. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)
Women often “bring up the voice of those who are the most vulnerable in our society,” says Hans Zollner, S.J., who heads the Centre for Child Protection in Rome.