Spontaneous Combustion and you (& me)

I have never seen anyone spontaneously combust, even though when I was a child they seemed to talk about this on TV regularly. I’ve never even walked into a room and had people say “You just missed it. There was a spontaneous combustion. Say, Clark, you’re never here when spontaneous combustions happen. If I didn’t know better, I’d suspect you were Superman.”

I hear spontaneous combustions used to be so common that Reader’s Digest used to run a popular monthly feature titled “The Lighter Side of Spontaneous Combustion.” It was a different age. Now we know that spontaneous combustion is not funny; and encouraging the average person to come up with a supposedly amusing anecdote about it is simply encouraging them to light someone aflame for fifty dollars and a national byline. And what publication would pay fifty dollars for an amusing anecdote these days? Perhaps combustion is on the wane because the death of print has taken the profit out of it. For exposure, of course, someone may do it for free. But print is dead. And in a visual medium people would suspect special effects, that is, foul play.

In addition, society has lost its spontaneity. All combustion must now be planned. There are city and county-wide burn bans. Burning requires a permit. Smoking is frowned upon. There are issues of air quality and global warming. Clothing is fire retardant, and so is the blood of the average person, through chemical absorption.

Today if you see someone burst into flames you can be confident someone started that fire, rather than standing there wondering whether that’s the sort of thing that “just happens” and then talking about your concerns to a documentary crew.

It is, I suppose, possible that these things do happen spontaneously and there is now a government coverup regarding them. It’s one thing to believe in spontaneous combustion, but quite another thing to believe in the government coverup of the same. If anything the authorities would rather you believe fires just happen than that someone is starting them. Especially if people are being burnt up by large corporations. Yes, sometimes fire just happens.

You and me
and a fire set by thee
and I’ll see you on the news tomorrow
Me and you
and a stormy hullabaloo
that’s one hot story to follow.