When polarity defines us, it’s easy to lose sight of our common humanity.

But all is not political, as nature increasingly reminds us. The fires in California that have destroyed lives, homes and towns — displacing thousands and wreaking havoc on the psyches of first-responders and reporters — have provided a glimpse of a primordial nightmare shared by all living creatures.

There actually have been three fires, two of which persist — the “Camp Fire” in northern California that burned a town called Paradise and the “Woolsey Fire,” which incinerated much of Malibu. As of Friday, the total body count was 66; the missing numbered more than 600.

Try as I might to avoid the darkness, I inevitably fail and step into the void, where quarters are rather crowded with fellow pilgrims who likewise need to wonder and to know. What is it like to be trapped by walls of fire with only a car, if lucky, for escape? Was there plenty of gas? Were there stragglers? What about pets? What does that kind of heat feel like? How does one fathom the unfathomable?

This isn’t so much morbid fascination as it is, I suspect, a way to form solidarity

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