An Irish eternal flame honouring John F Kennedy petered out four days after the assassinated US president's closest relatives and Ireland's prime minister lit it near the Kennedys' ancestral home.I found it interesting because of what happened after. To put some context, the flame had been brought over from the USA to light the flame in Ireland. Now I kind of think that if you've gone to the trouble to treat the flame as, in some way, a continuance of the USAmerican one ("An Irish honour guard ferried the flame in an Olympics-style lantern across the Atlantic by aircraft, then by Irish naval vessel to the riverside town of New Ross for last Saturday's ceremony.") then if it goes out at the new location, you have to repeat the whole process of bringing it over again. But apparently not: "New Ross council said it went out Wednesday night, but was relit within minutes."
So, by having it lit there in the USA and, without being unlit, transferred to light a new fuel source which sustains the flame brought over from then on, they have made a big thing of the continuity which seems to me to be undermined by simply relighting it when it goes out (unless they kept the 'olympic style' lamp lit for just such contigency).
Of course this is all dependent on a fiction that somehow a flame is the same flame through all these transformations. However, what is it that constitutes the identity of a flame in the USA with one in Ireland? The constituents have all changed, the context has, no molecules are in common, no photons are the same. The only continuity is the combustion flashpoint for the 'daughter' flame is the parent flame and the maintainance of combustion from that flashpoint.
Why would I make such a big thing of this? Simply because there is something of a reflection on identity here that has some analogues to human beings. I don't have any molecules in common with my babyhood. There is a basic structure that's the same -like the flame itself- but really about the only thing that gives continuity is a history linking through a chain of events so that this body-mind complex traces back to that one and no other.
The Buddhist saying that you never enter the same river twice is apposite to precisely this issue. The point is that we are not stable entities, we are constantly changing. Our identity lies in our genetic and phenotypical patterning, our history, memory, social nexus and relationships. Who we are is formed out of all of this stuff, but all of this stuff is not constant when you examine it minutely. We are a statistical probability constantly arising/emerging and sustained by all of this stuff. But, there is something else to say.
In New Ross, we might just argue that there is a continuity beyond the flame not having gone out since flashpoint even though the fuel sources and housing have varied. The continuity is one of human intention, meaning and function. Because the point is to honour JFK by use of a flame which was originally lit from one in the USA, it could be argued that there is continuity even if it goes out because the human context wills it and since most of it is about a human artefact with human meanins and communicative intent, then those things constitute the main thing of which the actual flame is an emblem but that its emblematic quality is primary not any other kind of continuity which are merely temporary and contingent.
And humans? Are we not in an analogous position in God's remembrance, purposes and 'meaning'? Not to mention that God is able to reconstitute the essential structuring and remembering that makes us indentifiably 'us'. This is resurrection.
For the flame eternity is in a span and resurrection was emblemised before us.