Aristotle was wicked smart. But did he ever try selling vacuums door to door? Exactly.
When postulating on horror vacui, Aristotle was almost prescient. Thousands of years before major breakthroughs in physics, Aristotle believed all bodies moved to fill a void once it was created. Objects made of earth moved toward earth, items made of air moved toward air, etc.
He wrote that empty spaces are usually filled, demonstrating a very rudimentary grasp of Einstein’s theory of general relativity. Turns out, gravity is the only force preventing Earth’s atmosphere from being sucked into the near vacuum of outer space. But is space really a true vacuum?
With an ever-expanding understanding of quantum mechanics, physicists have not been able to physically demonstrate a true vacuum exists. By definition, a vacuum is nothing. And outer space is not nothing. The concept of nothing is theoretical only.
Space has quantum fields which are filled with appearing and disappearing pairs of virtual particles that leave their energy signature by impacting the energy in atoms. So, even a vacuum is not a true vacuum. Just close. Aristotle was correct, albeit without the factual depth of understanding why.
I like to know stuff. By knowing stuff, I can then think more broadly about fun things. In ruminating on those fun things, beyond the sheer science of Aristotle’s theory, I will now share a childhood story that truly shows how nature abhors a vacuum.
Let’s start with my uncle Colm’s third and final wife, a stripper named Sky Cornflower. She was raised on a hemp farm in a commune of Northern Californian hippies. Her family were spiritual explorers, and from a young age, they used drugs – weed, mushrooms, ecstasy, and acid – to enhance their connection to the deepest secrets of the universe.
Clothes were optional material trappings, perhaps explaining her adult vocation. As were toilets. The children were often seen scampering naked around the compound, crapping on the ground and cleaning themselves later in a local lake, which was likely also their drinking water.
Knowing her non-traditional upbringing, as kids, we cleverly developed a nickname for Sky Cornflower: Mother Nature, shorthand was Nature. It was no surprise that, given her gypsy roots and crispy brain cells, Nature was not going to be constrained by marital norms like participating in cleaning her own house. The place was a dump, outdoors brought indoors. Hell, until she died, she could barely sleep indoors without a bong hit and a horse tranquilizer to quiet her down.
On one visit, my sister and I witnessed a pile of – dirt? dust? dog shit? – in a corner of their living room, with a dandelion growing from it. Ironically, there was an antiquated relic resembling a vacuum stored in the same corner, not feet away. When I pulled Uncle Colm’s shirt and pointed at their indoor turd garden, he simply shrugged and said, “Nature abhors a vacuum.” Unattributed at that time to Aristotle, and quite literal in translation, I thought my uncle was the funniest dude around.
Nature had a dog. At least I think it was a dog. It was seven pounds of shit-kicking sinew, bones and tail. Purple mottled skin sprouted tufts of dry white hairs posing as fur. His head was an amalgam of thyroid bulging eyes, scraggly whiskers, patchy hair, and an irretractable, lolling red tongue, far too big for a pate so wee. His name was Red.
Red was a dick. An ill-tempered, misshapen little beast, he was bereft of all love or affection. Shivering constantly, Red was always twitching or nipping or yapping at invisible foes that tormented his malformed psyche. Cannot recount the number of times he would be nervously tottering through the house, fleeing invisible gremlins, looking over his shoulder and running headlong into furniture, the wall, or Nature. With a yip and a nip, he would be off again.
Even as kids, we always knew why he was really called Red… his red rocket. With little to no provocation, his glistening sex lipstick would jut forth from its sheath like a tiny wet sword. As though riddled with shame, the moment his penis came out, he would halt what he was doing, drop his hips to a crooked sitting position, and start aggressively licking his choad with that massive, slobbering Gene Simmons tongue.
But the worst thing I have ever seen was the time Uncle Colm, clearly pissed off at Nature’s domestic disinterest, fired up the presumed vacuum to clean up a massive spill of “charcuterie.” Unsurprisingly, this redneck delicacy was comprised of cubed Velveeta cheese, pepperoni slices and expired olives. Red lunged for the spilled splayed snacks. We guessed it was his first meal in days.
The vacuum made a horrific, high-pitched sound. A sound that only neglected creatures make when they cry out to god to end their suffering. Something snapped in Red. While mid-leap, his tattered ears shot skyward in abject terror, eyes bulging further from his head than anatomically possible, as his trouser mouse thrust like a fifth blood leg from its pouch.
Impossible to imagine, but Red, spindly purple legs aerodynamically splayed out to the side in the air, landed awkwardly and directly on his penis. Now, I am no veterinarian, nor could I be one after the mental trauma of witnessing this calamity, but poor Red’s penis bent in a way that neither Nature nor nature could have conceivably intended.
I swear to this day the sound it made was like a plucked boing of a Jew’s harp. Perhaps Red uttered the bizarre sound, that would make more sense. One can only hope.
Either way, Red tumbled across the floor like a nasty bowling ball, fur patches besot with squished cheese and olives. When he recovered from rolling, he began screeching and howling, attempting to mend his damaged tallywacker with his gargantuan tongue. Quickly displeased with that result, Red curled back into a ball and rolled away like a whimpering, gale-driven tumbleweed into parts unknown and unseen in Colm and Nature’s house.
We all stared at each other in disbelief. Having faded into background noise, the vacuum once again filled the room with its keening cry for a swift death. The moment Colm turned off the vacuum, the doorbell rang.
Nonplussed, Nature smoothed her shirt and walked over to the front door, as Colm returned the vacuum to its reliquary along the wall. Well past the five-second rule, I brushed some floor lint off a piece of pepperoni and nibbled in shock.
Nature opened the door to a cacophony of voices, clearly a choir of the damned coming to claim poor Red’s lost soul on a dark Saturday afternoon.
Good afternoon. Have you heard the good news of Jehovah and the path to enter God’s Kingdom? Hello. My name is Elder Smith. And I would like to share with you the most amazing book. Hi, could I interest you in a free carpet cleaning today? No obligation to buy anything, we are doing market research, just looking for….
It was like the set-up for a bad joke. A Jehovah’s Witness, a Mormon, and a Kirby Salesman make a cold call together…. you fill in the punchline. Any unannounced knocker with any version of god to offer would have been a total non-starter for our little pagan, Nature. But the synchronicity of a vacuum cleaner salesman – and a handsome one at that! – arriving at their exact moment of need! Well, Nature said it best, “Cosmic! Come on in!”
Instinct is a funny thing with animals. Red, in a final attempt to show his programmed distemper in defense of the family home, rounded a corner from another room, still rolled into a ball, and made a beeline to the closing front door. His agonized whelps were now combined with aggressive snarls, spittle flying in all directions, doing his best impression of the Tasmanian devil from Looney Toons.
As the door began to close, Red rapidly rambled through the remaining gap in the doorway, directly into the unaware evangelists. Screams of terror and shock, followed by howling barks, the closing door sealed the rest of the noise from our wondering ears. Red was never seen again. A tattered Book of Mormon was all that remained on the front porch later that day.
Instinct is even funnier with hippy strippers. On cue, Nature shimmied off for an undiscovered part of the house, accompanied hand-in-hand with the Kirby salesman. We were kids, so we only knew the living room, dining room, and kitchen part of Colm and Nature’s house. Colm looked at my dad and rolled his eyes. As Nature disappeared with her latest friend, we could hear her giggling softly, “Things are very dirty back here. I hope you can make them clean.”
An hour later, Colm and Nature had a sparkling new Kirby vacuum – for FREE! Can you imagine?
Years later, as though an insider’s joke at Nature’s wake, I overheard Uncle Colm confide in my dad with a wry smile. The epitaph he had carved on Nature’s gravestone read…
Nature Adored a Vacuum (Salesman)
Which brings us back to Aristotle. In the end, even with my family, his postulations still held true. Sky Cornflower, aka Nature, had a void that needed to be filled.
Turns out, Uncle Colm had a micro-penis, and she loathed it. So, she cheated. The Kirby vacuum salesman was one is a series of more fully endowed trysts that inevitably gave her herpes, medical complications from which led to her eventual demise.
But a micro-penis is not a void. It is not nothing. Arguably it is not much, but hey, sometimes a winning personality carries the day, too. The vacuum was in Nature’s heart, and that is what she detested.
She was a lazy, shallow, vacuous person who filled that emptiness with anything that provided her with a few moments of fulfillment and contentment in her otherwise unhappy, cosmic existence.
Thank the universe she and Colm never had kids. A dog was bad enough.
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