The big combustible stink

Sometimes, the sh-t hits the fan.
Other times, it just piles up.

Such is the case in today’s early news. It was a case of spontaneous combustion. First of all, I have to sidetrack here a little. Growing up, I was deathly afraid of spontaneous combustion. One of my little friends, who I will call “Becky,” described this phenomenon to me in great detail. I can remember the day and the place. We were in my living room on Bruce Ave. I was kindergarten age, so about six years old. She told me the ghastly details of how humans could be sitting in a chair, reading a book, or eating a Pop Tart, and suddenly, and out of no where, they would simple catch on fire, dying a horrible death. The only thing remaining would be a little pile of ashes and scorch marks. She pointed to the gold swivel chair in front of us. “Like that chair there. Poof. Dead. Burnt to a crisp. Gone,” she said. “And no one would ever know what happened to you.”

Holy Heck. From that point forward, I was upended by this possibility. Anytime I got a little bit warm, I’d run my hands under water, or open the freezer door, and stand in front of the frosty air. I would take whatever measures necessary not to combust. Spontaneous or otherwise. To this day, when I hear the term, I clearly remember those moments of unwarranted fear. Which may be why the headline caught my eye this morning.

It reported that a manure pile on a farm in northern Spain, likely sparked a 13,000-acre wildfire. And now it is burning out of control.

It has forced the evacuation of at least 53 residents. Lots of horses died. Sheep too. And more than 500 firefighters and soldiers have been called in to battle the flames. Thats a big bunch of burning.

So yes, this thing of spontaneous combustion is true. It can occur when materials self-heat. And, when “whatever” it is, reaches a high enough temperature, it ignites. Just like Becky said. Now, in the case of manure, there are little microbes inside the dung. It is these that can release heat until “it erupts into fire.” (Dung. That’s another word I should probably write about sometime, but not today. I’m not feeling crappy enough.)

Back to the story. Apparently this is nothing new. (See Becky). In fact, a massive, 2,000-ton pile of manure in Nebraska burned for three months. This happened in 2005. And another one, in Southern California, burned 6,000 acres in 2009.

That’s a whole heap of sh-t if you ask me.

I have all sorts of questions about this. Mostly surrounding the management of manure. We live just a mile away from a cow manure pit. Every time I get wind of this, I question the science of poop patrol and control.

But there is a bigger lesson here, I think. It is about letting things pile up. Inside. Crappy things. Be it our emotions, or our thoughts. I know this is true for me. When something bothers me, or when I haven’t done something quite right, the more I push it over in one corner, the more this “thing” piles up. Until, eventually, there’s a ton of it just waiting to spontaneously combust. And after shoving it all in a pile in the depths of my heart, or my mind, it ultimately doesn’t have any where else to go. Except to explode.

I’m not sure there is any exact science here, for crappy-feeling management. But I know that pushing it down, only allows it to pile up. I think we need to eke it out, a little at a time. Like little emotional farts maybe.

It may even be okay, from time to time, to Emotionally Fart in public. We might feel better, I bet.

So. There it is for us. One of the keys to life happiness. Leave the spontaneous combustion to the dung piles, and eke out a little spiritual gas for the soul’s relief. Where ever it may be.


“Under certain circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer.”
― Mark Twain


“There’s always some relief in giving up.”
― Lauren Oliver, Delirium Stories: Hana, Annabel, and Raven


“He judged the instant and let go; he flung himself loose into the stars.”
― Annie Dillard