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Hello My Name Is: About the Name

As one of the founding members of an online community that we have chosen to name the “Brush Fire Forum,” I thought it might be worthwhile to use my first official contribution to this site to explain that decision. I will spare you the gory details about the countless hours that went into eliminating the other options – many of which in hindsight were quite comical. Believe me when I tell you that nearly every simple but memorable moniker you can conjure up is likely already taken. The quantity of exit ramps on the “information superhighway” is staggering. (The quality of them is probably another story.)
Chances are, you have probably heard the term “brush fire” used in both a literal form and a metaphorical one. Those who know me already can attest that I rarely go outdoors without provocation, so rest assured this is not a site dedicated to literal brush fires. Thus we have narrowed it down to the metaphorical use of “brush fires,” and there is probably no more famous case of this than the following quote:
“It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people’s minds.”
Those of you who recognize this quote can probably – and perhaps correctly – attribute it to one of America’s Founding Fathers. The history junkies among us might even point to the awesome Samuel Adams as the man responsible for this inspiring notion. While I would certainly say that is likely the right answer to my limited knowledge, there are some puzzling problems with that conclusion.
According to the folks from the Oxford dictionary, the term “brush fire” was not first used in America until around 1850. Samuel Adams had been dead for almost fifty years by then. If we want to really split some hairs, the Oxford folks also indicate Americans did not take to the word “irate” until sometime in 1838.
Like all quotable things spoken before the technology of audio and video recording came along, we will never know with certainty who said this or what they said. All we know is this exact line does not appear anywhere in the preserved writings of Samuel Adams. Yet somehow – centuries later – we are mostly fine with giving him credit for this quote.
Arriving back at the point of my post, though, we really connected with the final eight words of this quote regardless of who said them, when they said them, or what their original context may have been. Like striking a match and tossing it into a pile of dry kindling, we sincerely hope that the posts on this site find a way to be the spark your mind needed to ignite a brush fire of deeper, more honest, more creative, and more intense thinking in your daily life.
Just as I went years and years in my life assuming this quote must have come from the letters or published works of Samuel Adams and never taking the time to verify it, we all too often take information and opinions we encounter at face value without investigating. The Brush Fire Forum is our hopeful attempt to foster an environment where we all bring our thoughts and opinions – as well as our hopes and frustrations – to the table and present them to an audience of fellow truth seekers. I am anxious to lean on all of you to help me better myself by challenging me and questioning with boldness the stances I take.
This forum can become an incredible “synergistic think-tank” (no more buzzwords, I promise) or an uplifting support group or whatever we want it to be. We have left the future direction of its content completely up to the people that choose to join in its mission. I encourage you to join in the fun, and I promise there will (almost) never be a dull moment. Unlike that time I spent an entire paragraph on word origins from the Oxford dictionary, right?