The poet Sylvia Plath obsessed about the oven, daring its noxious gas to take her life. Her poetry reads like a lifelong eulogy only to be sealed with the final kiss of death. The German Nazis used the ovens to kill the innocent. Humans burn their dead in ovens leaving only ashes to fill urns which sit in repose on the fireplace mantle. Hansel and Gretel faced the ovens in a fairytale. Not ovens per se but Americans once dropped gas tablets into a sealed chamber to destroy the worst of criminals. What does an oven do for you? It bakes your bread, broils your steaks, and steams your stews. Yet there is something more than those purposes, purification. The oven represents the final purification, the refiner’s fire if you will.
Mother Earth cleanses herself with forest fires and exploding volcanoes. Christians believe the earth will be cleansed of its sinners by a raging fire and of course there are the fires of war. The final fire staring us in the eyes every day is the remote possibility of a nuclear holocaust. The collective fear in every human, the fear that eats at us without our knowledge, the ultimate fear of death by fire, there could be no worse way to die. It is a subconscious fear of which we’re unaware, yet it is there, the eternal mosquito.
Be it an oven, a house fire, a bomb, a nuclear weapon, or a monk pouring gas on himself, we have all been programmed to fear the oven’s heat and its process of purification. The sweet smell of gas tempted Sylvia the Great, but not the heat. The heat of fire terrifies us as it painfully kills us. Soon the world will become an oven. Don’t believe me? Just ask an environmental scientist about greenhouse gas and the squandering of our ozone levels. We will die in a global oven someday. Thankfully I will die before then. My children’s children and subsequent children may see the day. My heart sinks at the thought. My hope is that the killers of the world will someday taste the bread they have baked.