We love to watch the show, MythBusters. On MythBusters Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman and their team use the scientific method to prove or disprove movie stunts, YouTube videos, rumours, myths, news stories, idioms or even their own personal curiosities. They tackle seemingly impossible hypotheses to see if there is any truth in them at all. My personal favourites are their attempts to test idioms. In season 9, episode 3 they tested the plausibility of the English expression, “When the shit hits the fan”! A series of ridiculous experiments revealed something quite unexpected and it certainly made me laugh and gave me pause to think.
According to the online urban dictionary “shit hits the fan” when ‘things get chaotic or uncontrollable’ or it’s ‘the point at which an already unstable situation devolves into utter chaos’.
Our family has a long-standing attachment to the word ‘shit’—I know it’s shocking but true! My mom and dad never permitted us to use swear words or foul speech when I was growing up. The word ‘fart’ was even off-limits. In our home we passed gas. At the very worst we “tooted” or “cut the cheese”.
We never farted. That was crude and crass and completely unacceptable.
The only exception was the word “shit”…and that only if we said it with a Pakistani accent. Something about that combination made my dad start to shake. The little lines around his eyes would start up first and eventually his convictions would melt off his face into complete laughter. It never failed. Dad would laugh and mom would say his name, “Gary!” with as much as sternness as she could muster as if dad himself had used the offending language!
Later when Lowell and I moved to India we had other opportunities to use the word. In our experience in North India, shit is the expletive of choice for anyone who speaks any amount of English. It’s not really a cuss word. Shit is used to denote poop, plain and simple. The ancient place we rented on the banks of the Ganges River provided ample opportunity to use the word. Frequently the sewage backed up on our bathroom floor. Using the word was a way to secretly let off some frustration but it was also a way to communicate to our landlady what was going on! She understood that word.
The word shit isn’t just used to talk about sewer– it has a variety of uses in India. It was a word that sympathized. When I told our landlady that my dad had been in the church that was attacked by terrorists in Islamabad in 2002, her first response, with her hand quickly coming to touch my arm and her face contorting in sadness and sympathy was, “Ah shit!” When I told her that Lowell had dengue fever, I got the same face with the same concern and the same word of choice, “Ah shit!” When I told her something funny that had happened in the market she would laugh and say, “Oh shit!” When I showed her the bathroom floor where the sewage had backed up she’d groan and appropriately exclaim, “Oh shit!”
So you can imagine my intrigue and my amusement with the episode on MythBusters where they try to prove the validity to that interesting expression, “when the shit hits the fan”!
The funny thing is after Jamie and Adam had gone to the work of creating their own blue simulated poo, making a testing site, setting up a fan and then throwing the blue poo into the fan, not much happened. It was so anti-climactic! The blue poo just sort of hit the fan’s protective grate and then fell with a disappointing thud to the ground. They made some changes. They made their blue poo more gooey, they increased the size of the fan, they removed the grate. Eventually they were not disappointed. The blue goo flew! The anticipated results were finally actualized.
It made me stop and think.
Sometimes we expect our stresses and our strains to be far more grand and far-reaching than they are. Our imaginations move into our fears and we become anxious and over-wrought. We dream up horrors and hells and we allow them to paralyze our souls. These fears keep us awake at night. They force us to the edge of our calm. We live in dread of the “shit hitting the fan”.
But what if the shit just sort of plonks against the grate and nothing much happens? What if our worst fears are never actually realized? Or when they are realized we see it wasn’t as we thought it would be? Perhaps we’re stronger than we thought we’d be. Perhaps God was more Present than we thought He’d be. Perhaps our support structures held more than we thought they would.
I think about all the time I’ve spent dreading, fearing, and imagining the worst. (I’ve written about some of them: Better Widow than a Wife, When Fear Proves Love). I’ve spent hours blowing up my anxieties, like balloons for a funeral. I’ve wasted more hours trying to think up ways to protect myself from those same dreaded outcomes.
Like Jamie, on Mythbusters, I’ve donned perfect protective gear to safeguard against the flying poop. More often than not, it never hits.
I’m not entirely sure what the answer is. I do want to live more fully in my now, in my here. Hopefully the pathetic results of Adam and Jamie’s test will remain with me and tutor me. What they worst feared didn’t actually happen! Jesus didn’t use the expression, “when the shit hits the fan”, but he did teach on imagined future dreads. He wanted us to live today!
So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.