At boingboing, an interesting blog which pulls in “alternative” stories from around the world, is a fascinating article from espn having to do with a subject no one really ever wants to talk about, a subject universally so embarrassing that it can only be broached in crude jokes, a thing which the world can’t contemplate associated with its idols, but something which is common to all regardless of station or standing. At this point I expect you’ll go check out the article, if you haven’t already abandoned me and done so, and we can begin to discuss the subject further….
There is a taboo surrounding shit, even though almost everybody uses the word several times a day and finds the need to evacuate bowels on a regular basis; for some people many times a day and for others only once every few days, depending largely on habituated eating habits, which is a point to which I will come possibly later.
Yet, as the article points out, human shit is one of the most dangerous and poisonous substances on the planet, and its disposal and management one of the most serious issues facing the world, and perhaps it’s time to openly discuss it, beginning with a dialectic on the possible ways to decrease its toxicity. Foremost in such considerations would be the degree to which human waste is made more dangerous by a diet high in chemicals and antibiotics, and in other introduced elements which are foreign to the foodchain and incompatible with the human digestive system. Were we to eat and drink only those things found in nature, a diet predominantly vegetarian, and take for sickness and pain only naturally occuring remedies, we could probably even scatter our own shit on the vegetable garden without resulting in a public health crisis.
The bowels are connected directly to the emotions giving rise to such sentiments as “he gives me the shits,” and by ubiquity of such expressions everyone will be aware that changes happen to the bowels according to various emotional pressures. Many have thought themselves to be suffering from some chronic intestinal illness or dysfunction only to find release at the breakdown of a relationship which hitherto hadn’t been recognised as toxic. For some the intestinal tract has been so damaged by continual emotional reaction on a subliminal level that the end of such a relationship brings no intestinal relief, for now the condition has become chronic; irritable bowel syndrome. Anyone who suffers this debilitating and socially crippling condition will tell you that, apart from the abdominal agonies, it feels as though that instead of toilet paper one has been wiping with this…
Despite the new laxity in tolerance to the use of profane words in common parlance and in exploration of subjects for discussion which not long ago were considered completely socially unacceptable, such as sex, it is rather surprising that the act of shitting should still be regarded as something about which no one speaks and about which there is so much shame attached, as though anyone, given sufficient moral rectitude, might somehow be able to prevent it.
In animals shitting is considered natural; a part of that which makes animals animals – that’s what animals do; they eat, they shit, nonetheless even amongst humans who deny a spiritual element to life; anything which cannot be observed and measured by definition does not exist, shitting is somehow regarded as so base as to be anomalous with the exalted human state. It is the one thing which testifies to our gross material existence, just as the naturist confirms the existence in the forest of a creature by the droppings it leaves when it has moved on.
The only reference in movies to the fact of having to shit, as I recall, was in Last Tango In Paris and in The Godfather, and another in a bizarre French film whose title I can’t recall in which dinner guests pulled down their pants and sat around a table each on a toilet, and excused themselves singly and with self conscious embarrassment to find a tiny closetted room in which they could sit down, remove a tray of food from a machine, and consume it quietly and with a degree of uncomfortable guilt. But aside from the only examples which come to mind and the extremely few others which might be found, people in the movies never shit and seldom piss, and this probably accounts for the fact that their lives appear to be packed with unencumbered activity unsullied by the inconvenience of having to do something as unromantic and prosaic as shit, and for the aura of fantasy regardless of the subject or genre so attractive to movie goers who deceive themselves they’ve seen a slice of real life or have received a clue as to what they might do in similar situations. Nothing so reduces the usefulness of any hero nor destroys the worship of his admirers more than his having to interrupt a grand gesture to shit.