I’ve always admired the expression ‘when the shit hits the fan’. It so eloquently describes a pending predicament, more precisely – the anticipated negative outcome by odious dispersion. While there’s debate surrounding the idiom’s etymology, most agree it dates back to the 1930’s, connected to the following depression-era hilarity:
A man in a crowded bar needed to defecate but couldn’t find a bathroom, so he went upstairs and used a hole in the floor. Returning, he found everyone had gone except the bartender, who was cowering behind the bar. When the man asked what had happened, the bartender replied, ‘Where were you when the shit hit the fan?” Hugh Rawson, “Wicked Words,” 1989
Not exactly Seinfeld material, but the witticism adequately explains the terminology’s birth and acceptance. While I appreciate the longevity of the expression, evolvement over time, or rather amplification, was inevitable. What once was an appropriate adage in the days of warm Sarsaparilla and a single rusty ceiling fan, no longer applies in a world of Iced Lattes and central air conditioning.
Of what evolvement do I speak?
Not wind turbines, those massive entities capable of eradicating entire flocks of liquid-paper-poopers in one fowl swoop (an excellent example of shit hitting the fan on a gargantuan scale, but I’m thinking bigger).
Try ‘shit storm’.
Unbeknownst to me when I first broached the topic, l didn’t realize the term was widely accepted and referenced in respected online publications like ‘Wiktionary’. Add to this the fact that some prominent individuals, like German Chancellor Angela Merkel, adopted the terminology to describe the deteriorating state of political affairs – the reference is hardly new. While varying definitions exist, an adequate, simple adaptation states:
Shit Storm – ‘A chaotic and unpleasant or violent situation’.
In other words; the natural progression from ‘shit hitting the fan’, to a category 4 hurricane propelling feces in an explosive torrent.
And what exactly does this revelation have to do with the price of a Wii in China?
Shit storms come for all of us. No one is immune. While I’ve managed to escape the odd squall, eventually one makes landfall. And that’s when our response defines who we are.
Life hands us peaches and lemons. What we do with them, is up to us. Rarely are things black and white. If we don’t look closely before reacting, before we rejoice, rage, surrender or withdraw, we miss subtleties, hints and clues at the larger picture. Peaches can be flavorless, rotten. Lemons on the other hand, can be the magical elixir, a fundamental ingredient in a new gastronomic delight. Often we unknowingly process information too quickly, through a filter of pessimism, worst case scenario, a ‘why the hell does this have to happen to me’ attitude. And as bad gets worse, the situation exacerbates and those dark clouds appear on the horizon. If we aren’t careful, the clouds accumulate, propagate, and without intervention, decimate.
Coping with a pending shit storm is a personal battle, an individual journey. We each plot our own path. Some abandon hope and withdraw, consumed by sorrow, helplessness and self-pity. Others step up to the challenge, facing the darkness, unfettered, unyielding, prepared for battle. It is a fight after all, albeit an internal one. Optimism versus pessimism, advance or retreat, victim or victor. We each decide.
America’s had a bad week. Life has a tendency to do that sometimes, deal from the bottom of the deck. It cheats. Expectations are dashed, pursuits quashed, dreams ended. In recent days one cannot pick up a newspaper or open a web browser without exposure to horrific details, misguided speculation, and often a complete disregard for humanity lost.
Some shit storms are better classed as shit tsunamis.
But regardless of which idiom is appropriate, it’s how we respond to adversity, how we traverse the darkness, how we rebound, that defines us as individuals, and more importantly, as a society.
Chaotic, unpleasant and violent situations hold no lasting power, unless we allow them to.
Shit storms will pass in time.
The choice is ours.
Until next time,