Lessons From the Dung Pile
Lessons From the Dung Pile
Or Why I don’t get Bent About Global Warming
Having been raised on an Oklahoma sharecropper’s farm during the Great Depression — and being taught that everything, no matter how insignificant, is a commodity that needs to have the very last ounce of value wrung out of it — my mother was an organic gardener before organic gardening was cool. She didn’t just throw away food scraps willy-nilly. Every single apple core, banana peel, potato peel, uneaten onion slice, and disgusting bowl of cold oatmeal, got buried in her mulch pile and eventually tilled into the dirt of her 30’ x 60’ vegetable garden.
When I was in high school, my mother inherited six white bunnies. I think someone she worked with had purchased them as an Easter present for their young kids, only to discover that rabbits have very sharp teeth which they rarely hesitate to use. Once your two-year-old loses a finger to that cute fluffy bunny, the laws of Nature get real. Long-story-short, my dad built those filthy animals a hutch on stilts with a wire mesh bottom so their poop could fall through and pile up beneath the cage.
Apparently, there’s something valuable about rabbit poop so guess where the new mulch pit went. Now, every scrap of uneaten vegetation had to be buried in that stinking pile of sh… well, you get the idea. It was also about that time that I developed a passing interest in the writings of a frizzy-headed Jew named Albert Einstein. On one of those rare occasions when I could not escape helping my mother bury food scraps in the backyard Hellhole, I made an interesting, if not predictable observation: Mr. Einstein was right!
Remember that whole E=MC2 thingy and the idea that as atoms die (either by trauma or aging) they let go of ions, resulting in a tiny emission of heat? That was never so clear to me as it became one crisp Autumn Sunday afternoon when I realized the bottom of that dung pile was seriously warmer than the ground above it. This wasn’t just left-over warmth from the previous Summer. That pile of crap was actually generating heat – not much but enough to be noticeable.
The greatest irony of our era was also not lost on me — that a committed pacifist like Einstein would unwittingly document the very reaction that led to the most destructive weapon in history. When you convince Gozillions of atoms to let go of their energy at the same time, well, “Adios Hiroshima.”
Fast-forward to today and you cannot open a newspaper or view a newscast without being bombarded by the global warming frenzy. Granted, they had to change the moniker to “Climate Change” since parts of our little planet are actually cooling instead of warming but the principle is the same. Herr Einstein, were he still breathing, might contend however, that “warming” is the more accurate descriptor.
Unfortunately, applying Einstein’s theories to Climate Change renders an even drearier prospect. We are forced to observe that our little blue planet might actually be past its prime, and while any problem created by man is a problem that can be solved by man (the rosier view), planetary aging is something we have no power over. In fact, when we face the fact that our happy little planet is going to die at some point, we’re naturally forced to face our own mortality.
What’s the point?
So, by now you’re thinking where is this guy going? And what the heck do rabbit poop and atom bombs have to do with planetary aging? And what does any of this have to do with me? As Perry Mason would say, “Indulge me for five minutes longer your honor and I’ll tie it all together.”
On a bright Sunday afternoon, about six months after my initial discovery of “Fecal Warming” (or incremental excremental energy expansion for you warm-o-phobes), my mom and I were out by the vile rabbit cage, literally “stirring up some shit” when I noticed the cutest little green sprout emerging from the stench heap. When I pointed it out to my mom, she casually reached down, plucked it out, roots and all, wadded it up like a used Kleenex, and chunked it back into the mix.
“What was that,” I queried, assuming it was a weed. “Apple tree,” she replied. I was completely dumbstruck (and if you know me, you know that’s not common). Here was my mom, eco-superwoman, goddess of organic gardening, annihilating a perfectly viable future apple orchard. “But why kill it?” I demanded. “Because it would have kept growing and forced us to move the rabbit hutch,” she answered, “now, it’s fertilizer.”
At some point, this rusty blue motorhome that we’re hurdling around the Sun in, is gonna give up the ghost. At another point, hopefully prior to that cataclysmic event, you’re gonna cash in your chips, and I’m gonna do the same, and the businesses we’ve built are gonna eventually wither away. But just like that apple sprout, new life is going to emerge out of the dung heap of all those corpses.
In fact, when you look around and realize that the culture we grew up in is, for all practical purposes, already dead, the solution is not to wring our hands and get depressed. The solution is to start planting and see what we can grow from the fertilizer of that dead ethos. Who knows? We might even discover truth.
By the way, we eventually ate those stupid bunnies.
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To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, day and night, to make you everybody else, means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight and never stop fighting.
— E.E. Cummings via Brennan Manning
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— Brennan Manning
I’ll not make Russell Duckworth perform his signature eye-roll, by saying, “This is the best book I ever read.” I will, however, attest that I listened to it twice in a span of four days. Moreover, if I’d read this book 25 years ago, I’d be a completely different, far better person today. My only consolation is C.S.Lewis’ quote from last week. The great news is that you can listen to it for free on Audible along with a few other of Brennan Manning’s excellent works.
Einstein’s Miraculous Year
— John J. Stachel
I did read this book almost 25 years ago and much of it made me feel like a Kindergartener visiting a High School Physics class. However, the parts I understood brought together a huge heap (not dung heap) of disparate information and made it all make sense. Don’t read this book late at night when you’re tired. Instead, put on some Classical music to stimulate your neurons and read it without any distractions. You will not regret the investment. Once you’ve read it, call me so you can explain the parts I didn’t understand.