The World on Fire

Bringing What We’re Able

By Jorge D. H. Prosperi 2020

[“World on Fire” is a song written by Sarah McLachlan and Pierre Marchand, from her  Afterglow album (2003). It was released as the third single from the album in 2004, with a music video directed by Sophie Muller. The song was released as a CD single format on June 4, 2004.]

McLachlan wrote the song in response to the horrific events on Tuesday, September 11, 2001 as the world for many of us seemed to be on fire.

Hearts are worn in these dark ages
You’re not alone in this story’s pages
The light has fallen amongst the living and the dying
And I’ll try to hold it in, yeah, I’ll try to hold it in

The meaning of the song took on a life of its own as human beings around the world felt its desperate call to bring hope but feeling powerless . . . not knowing how. We face in 2020 some of the same desperation, sorrow and anxieties.

The world’s on fire, it’s more than I can handle
Tap into the water, try to bring my share
Try to bring more, more than I can handle
Bring it to the table, bring what I am able

Sarah made a video for “World on Fire” that in 2004 cost in the neighborhood of $150,000. Most likely in 2020 some 5 times as much. The attached video at the end of this essay literally cost Sarah $15.00 as it was low-quality footage of a barefoot McLachlan in a plain room playing a guitar. The song expresses her helplessness in a world where horrific events unfold on a daily basis. Many of us in 20202, barefoot, in the privacy of our homes, with our FaceTime and Zoom created our own callings to deal with our isolation – our solace.

I watch the heavens but I find no calling
Something I can do to change what’s coming
Stay close to me while the sky is falling
I don’t wanna be left alone, don’t wanna be alone

The song also expresses her fortitude, resiliency and courage to resist cynicism and pessimism urging us to find our own power of influence . . .

Try to bring more, more than I can handle
Bring it to the table, bring what I am able

Sarah donated the cost that the video would have cost to eleven charitable organizations enriching lives all around the globe:

Carolina for Kibera, Comic Relief, CARE USA, DORCAS,
Engineers Without Borders (Canada), Help the Aged, Film Aid, War Child,
Heifer International, ITDG, and Action Aid

At times we may feel that what we humbly bring to the table is insignificant given the constructed anxiety, chaos, stress and trauma of modernity. We at times may feel like taking the fetal position – cowering from the immensity of constructed fear, divisiveness and injustices inciting social -isms and phobias.

Hearts break, hearts mend
Love still hurts
Visions clash, planes crash
Still there’s talk of
Saving souls, still the cold
Is closing in on us

We part the veil on our killer sun
Stray from the straight line on this short run
The more we take the less we become
The fortune of one man means less for some

What the song did was to create awareness. It is said that awareness precedes love and can lead to recognition, validation and appreciation of the frail human condition. Sarah used her power of influence as a highly successful performer in her time and space to foster awareness that led to world wide advocacy on behalf of others.

Awareness turned into empathyResistance turned into AdvocacyHope into Action.

McLachlan promoted the song and its video with an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show on the 17th of May 2006 leading others to join her efforts to provide relief to those most often invisible and silent.

The majority of us will never have the power of influence of a Sarah McLachlan or Oprah Winfrey to mobilize millions in order to relieve suffering, much less cure diseases or literally save lives. Our contributions may seem insignificant compared to their financial capacity and world connections of the rich and famous.

This is not what Sarah is remotely suggesting to us, but rather to seek the state of being of conscious awareness that is ever present – recognizing the needs and frailties of others.

The World on Fire speaks of desperate times and at the same time of hope – the inalienable essence of our humanity . . . the humanness . . . the selfless love supreme that lives within each us . . . doing our fair share . . . in our own time, space . . .

“Try to bring more, more than I can handle
Bring it to the table, bring what I am able”

Sarah McLachlan – World On Fire video