The joy of farting – the humor and humility of flatulence

When I was in 5th grade, I was the Fart King, the Master of Flatulence.

I didn’t know it at the time, but it was a dietary thing. My mom had started putting dried apricots in my lunch. And boy! did those desiccated fruits do magic to my gastronomy. And to my popularity with the other boys. (The girls wouldn’t have much to do with me, but that was just another bonus in 5th grade.)

Those apricots were so effective, I could pretty much fart on command (which was awesome). I had the perfect punctuation for every punch line I delivered. And if another kid was messing with me, I had lethal powers at my disposal with which to deal with him.

Sure, I got laughed at. But I was the one in control of the laughter and that made all the difference in the world. Everyone laughs at everyone else at that age. New haircuts. Flooding pants. What car your parents drive. What’s in your lunch. Most of what we got laughed at for was out of our control. But I was the master of mine.

So, I’d tilt my left butt cheek in the middle of the teacher’s history lecture and let out a beast, roaring and stinking to high heaven. And that was the best of those 5th grade farts. Not only would the girls groan and the boys laugh, but Mr. Zweers would get all bent out of shape. He knew I was letting them rip in order to disrupt class, but I would shrug and say, “Excuse me,” and he couldn’t do a thing about it. I hadn’t cussed. I hadn’t talked back. I hadn’t hit anyone. I hadn’t broken a single rule. But I had usurped the class, even if for only 20 seconds, and we all knew it.

Who knew that farting was a form of non-violent resistance? Though, depending on the smell, some might question if it’s truly non-violent.

That year was my great introduction to what we all do but which we don’t all appreciate.

Gas is a great leveler. It’s amazing how it can bring down the mighty.

A guy I knew way back when told me how he had been a star athlete and how he’d enjoyed the glow of the praise it brought him. But in one highlighted performance in front of a quiet crowd, one false move cause him to let fly a reverberating blast that stunned the onlookers. And with that release of hot gas, the air went out of his puffed-up ego as well.

Yes, a lot of us are filled with gas and just need to let it out. And if you can’t fart in front of others, you’ve got a self-image problem that needs dealing with. Come on! Don’t take yourself so seriously.

Flatulence is truly magical in its ability to move us from stuffy seriousness to the hilarity of being human. We really do take ourselves too seriously and we need loud, bursting exclamations of pungent aroma to get us laughing at ourselves and with one another.

During a summer of being a camp counselor, one of the high school kids got injured. She was pretty stressed about it until a single bubble of gas escaped her control with a tangy “Furp!” Instantly, the tension was gone. Laughter replaced tears. And Jenny had a new nickname.

Not many months later, I was leading a Bible study with some high school boys and talking about heaven. I was way too serious, trying to impart my wisdom on these unformed characters. Then Aaron asked, “Will there be farts in heaven?” That broke the mood and unleashed a fart-fest of comments: “There better be farts in heaven.” “But they won’t smell.” “Yes, they will! I like the smell of my farts.” “Maybe all your farts come back to you after you die.” And on it went. In hindsight, I think Aaron improved the conversation.

It’s amazing how many memorable farting experiences I’ve had. I have whole memories where I don’t remember a thing anyone said, but I do remember the fart that obscured them.

One kid I knew could fart on command. It wasn’t diet either. I don’t know how, but he could somehow gather air and release it at will. His exploits dwarfed my 5th grade toots.

Once, two friends and I were talking far into the night when it occurred to us that our names are merely glorified farts sounds. Pete. Steve. Bart. It’s now 25 years later, but I still drop short notes to Steeeeeeeeeeve!

My friend Bernd tells the story about a date he went on where he was so bloated he felt he’d burst. But he made it through the meal and to the car, where he opened the front door for her. He took his time walking around the back of the car, letting out all his pent-up gas. But when he sat in the driver’s seat, she said to him, “It followed you.”

And now that I’ve got four kids, I love the fart jokes and watching them trying to torment each other by farting on each other. It’s so old, but I love the pull my finger game.

Flatulence is a daily experience for all of us (except for the rare person who’s had to have a surgery which makes it impossible). This almost universality is for our physical and spiritual health. Our bodies need to be rid of these toxic gases. But so, too, do our souls.

We need the humor and the humility of farting. We need to have our egos deflated by the release of gas, whether it’s our own or it’s that 5th grade clown who disrupts class for 20 seconds. And we simply need to laugh. Laughter is praiseworthy. And so to are the sounds and smells that make us laugh.

As we quoted to each other as kids: “Beans, beans, good for your heart. The more you eat, the more you fart.”

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