Monday, September 20, 2010

The Industrial Fire Down Below

They work down in the hole, down in the pit, down in the basement, hidden away from the light of day, illuminated only by the flaring of flames in the stoves, furnaces, and boilers of our many factories. For the most part they're anonymous and we forget about them down there, and that's bad, because we ought to remember our people better than that. Because they perform a great function for us, a great service. And that's something to think about.

They're right there, deep down, right at the heat source, keeping the flames going, the boilers boiling away. Without them, our smokestacks would look very plain. They'd be standing there lifeless, not worth having. But thanks to their dedicated efforts, the fire rages and the smoke is able to fill the skies. Of course, I'm talking about the guys each one of us hires to keep the fire going down below.

We need the fire down there, for whatever reason. Any time we need boiling water for the work of manufacturing. Or heat in our plants. Or ... Why exactly do we need them? I slept on my head funny last night and have a cauliflower ear, and I'm up early, and, this is embarrassing but I seriously can't remember exactly why we do need so much fire down below. But they are down there, putting coal on the fire, logs, old phone books, chopped up chairs, lighter fluid, anything that'll burn long enough so they can get a coffee break every now and then.

These employees would be mythologically termed the disciples of Vulcan, who was a god of Rome noted for fire. I could look him up -- even the false gods get their own Wiki page these days -- but I'm a big fan of the first commandment, and any idolatry, even of a scholarly nature, is forbidden. But it wouldn't hurt just to make a few innocent guesses. Vulcan, I believe, would've been in the earth, churning up the flames down below. And it'd seem to me that "volcano," the word, might have something to do with him. Whether Vulcan was known for hitting a forge or anvil, like a relative I once had named Clarence did in his town as a blacksmith for farmers, that I don't know. (This is not my Uncle Clarence but a different guy, although my Uncle Clarence had his own fire down below until the fire from another guy's gun put it out. The kind of fire Uncle Clarence had down below will be the theme of the next paragraph...)

Bob Seger has a great song called "The Fire Down Below." In his song, the fire down below is our common libido. He sings of Old Rosie and Hot Nancy and the street lights, then the men showing up in the shadows, with this one thing in common, "They got the fire down below." Similarly, to express the universality of this "fire," he says it's true of the rich man, the poor man, the banker, the lawyer, and the cop; they have one thing in common, the fire down below. Something's down there putting fuel on the fire. Maybe you know the way it goes. You see a sweet young thing jogging by and your fuel's ablaze. And it doesn't matter if you're too old for her -- the oil we burn in our cars is a billion years old! -- proving there's no fuel like an old fuel.

Maybe that's why the firebugs in our depths are so anonymous. There's just a bunch of horny old devils down there looking at dirty magazines. And tossing them on the fire when the boss shows up. In that case, it'd seem to me they're very much like Satan, who lives below in the earth in the flames when he's not out walking about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. Cold cuts.

Anyway, today we pay a fond tribute to these dear denizens of the deep, down there with their fuel, matches, kindling wood, bellows, candles, and incense. Keep up the good work, guys, whatever useful function it is you do.

Just as an aside, I had some real industrial strength fire down below last night, and that's what really gets you hopping. It was inexorable. I'm glad for these denizens of the deep as well, keeping everything burning. They occasionally pull a cord and send out the alarm that the bottom's about to fall out, and that we should get our physiological forms in place for a quick evacuation. Like the jettisoning of a rocket stage in the old days of the space program. Once the fire spewed from below, then it separates from the remaining body of the craft. That's the way it worked, as it fell into the waters below, and that's still the way.

It's a useful function, this fire down below, making the way for a new day of shoveling in the fuel. And it also has certain mental uses for the plant. We've all heard of Martin Luther's fabulous insights and transformation on the pot. I think he might've thrown pootie at the devil. Was it him or Jonathan Swift? Wait, I think Luther threw ink.

And since I mentioned my relative Clarence, I could also mention a cousin's wife, Joyce, who received the Holy Ghost while dealing with the fire down below. She was never a Lutheran, but a full blown pentecostal, especially after she was full blown that day. Like in the Bible, they say, it was like the sound of a mighty rushing wind. Then a cooling splash all the way up her back. One part of her, like the rocket, continued to ascend, and the rest was history.

The lesson is, If you want a magnificent spiritual experience, go anal retentive to the extreme, deny yourself -- a different sort of asceticism -- then pray! My own counsel on this score would be, Try to forget your aspirations and simply let your consciousness melt into the divine as it wills. I know, it's a tough concept. If you'll empty yourself like Joyce, your mind too, it'll be better ... kenosis.

So, today, without further doo, let us pay tribute to these anonymous fiery spirits in all of our basements. Industry needs them ... for something. So, men, keep those fires stoked like a red hot fever and we'll continue to enjoy the benefits of your daring service.

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