The Endless Return (to the toilet)

I was speaking to someone about this blog, and they were wondering why I was so obsessed with bodily excrement.

I haven't written directly about shitting for a long time (if you click on the earliest posts, you can read direct descriptions of my toilet use, hence the title of the blog). But it does crop up as a theme again and again.

There are a few reasons why what comes out of our bodies fascinates me. So here is a list.

  1. Metaphor. As humans, our main way of making sense of the world is by creating narratives that join together the disparate events of our lives, and the incomprehensible environment in which we live. We try to turn everything into a metaphor for everything else, to internalise the external, and to externalise the internal. Shitting is often referenced in these metaphors - knowingly and unknowingly. Think of writer's block; the idea of having a weak stomach; or the psychological and cultural interpretations of food intolerance. Nietzsche was obsessed with his bowels: he hated the German diet of sausage and bread, he was a vegetarian and drank peppermint tea. He walked incessantly, and thought that sitting down was the enemy of thought - movement over inertia, movement for regularity of thought, of shitting. Constipation and diarrhoea are incredibly powerful metaphors, and I link them closely to ideas of mania and depression, and in turn to creativity or productivity. I'm reading Capital Volume 1 by Marx at the moment, and he is constantly referencing the metabolic nature of capital. If and when I come to write directly about his book, I'll be using those metaphors and references as the basis for my reading.
  2. Chaos. Although we try and make these substances part of the story we tell ourselves about the world, most of the time they don't reveal anything to us. Shit stinks, it is abject and we only have a limited amount of control over what form it takes (today I passed a pure black turd, it stared at me from the water, bobbing blankly), and when we pass it. Vomit is uncontrollable, it bursts forth from us and subjugates us to the will of our bodies. We've all seen a child suddenly spew litres of sick across a kitchen table - the look of surprise. This bodily interruption of our otherwise well reasoned and coherent lives is a reminder that beneath the veneer of human understanding is the empty chaos of our ignorance.
  3. Infinity. The weird thing about these chaotic moments is their regularity. Pissing and shitting are some of the only reliable constants in our lives - like a smellier version of breathing. So even though we don't understand the stuff that comes out of us, we know that it is essential to our comfort and survival that we allow it to do as it pleases. The metabolic process is an biological fact, and one that can't be deconstructed with human thought. It is both a historical process - in that the human digestive process has evolved along with the rest of our body, and ahistorical - in that human action, the 'free will' of mankind, has played no part in its development. Shitting is a constant reminder of the infinite, the unknowable and the incomprehensible nature of reality.

p.s. I got this link a while back, but as I said, I haven't been writing about shit much. This seems like an apt moment to share it. This is - "Where Shit Happens". Photos of shit with absurd titles, trying to draw meaning from the meaningless. A selection of names for the photos: Howl at the Moon, Bison, My Tree Trunk Turd, Fetus (sic), Snakehead.

Walking the Internet

Walking is the opposite of the the internet. That's my hypothesis.

I came up with it just now on the toilet. I was thinking about Nietzsche's assertion that you should never think whilst sitting down. Although I can certainly recommend reading Nietzsche whilst shitting. Or Schopenhauer. Both very evacuatory philosophers in my opinion.

And I was thinking about how many times I've said it whilst walking, 'Oh you know Neitzsche said you should never think whilst sitting down', and how I've never bothered to look up the exact quote because:

1. I don't think you need the exact quote - you get the general idea right? Like, sitting down is the enemy of thought. Done.
2. When I'm walking I don't have the internet.

And then I thought how walking is the one time (unless you are really determined) that you can't use the internet. Physically, it is hard to use the internet whilst walking. Even with a good phone and a decent connection, navigating the controls and looking at the tiny screen make it almost impossible. I'm not talking about Google Maps or whatever. Though even then you sort of have to stop walking for a second to look at it.

(Incidentally, I can't read a book whilst walking, or at least I've never really tried. I think it makes you look mad, although apparently it is fashionable in certain Oxbridge colleges.)

And now I'm here, sitting down and thinking and writing and quoting. On the internet. The opposite of what Nietzsche said. But I'm not going to look up the quote. If I look up the quote, I'll probably have misquoted him and then the semantics of the sentence will change and then it won't mean what I want it to mean. And then what's the point of the quote? Why bother quoting something correctly when it doesn't say what you want it to say?


I was speaking to someone the other day who said that the internet was like a really bright torch that could shine on anything, all these archived, perfectly preserved things. Like turning on a fluorescent light in a storage container full of things you wish you'd thrown away.. Whereas each time you walk somewhere, certain things come to light - are returned to you - and certain things remain hidden.


On the internet you can find yourself in quite strange places, but you can explore them without fear. Walking those places is a different thing entirely. It is the difference between clicking around the EDL's online forum (10,669 active members who don't know you're there), and walking into a BNP pub in Walthamstow and ordering a pint (six men staring at you).


Maybe I'm trying to propose a synthetic relationship between the things I do in real space, and the things I do online. I think this dialectical, so bear with me. Because for me they are both essential, and I wouldn't be so interested in walking a space, if I didn't already know about that space through online exploration. And though they are possibly opposing methods of movement/thought, they do not negate each other - in fact their contradictory elements (online as Cartesian or mental exploration and walking as empirical or bodily exploration. Unlimited, instant access to information online and physically limited, incomplete access to information whilst walking) are what make the combination of walking and online research so powerful.

And if you'll excuse me, some weird atonal orchestral music is playing from the school behind my flat, so I'm going to google it to find out what's going on and then go down there and have a look.


I live in Bow. There is a lot of development there at the moment. A lot of signs with "Affordable " written on them.

I was thinking about that word, as a linguistic tag. Its use here is a bit of a double edged metaphor, an upturned euphemism.

"Affordable" is meant to be a slightly patronising favour, given to you by the developers. The official figure is anything at or below 80% of market rates.

But, strangely, the already condescending metaphorical use of the word has been twisted to become harshly berating. To need housing to be actually affordable - or even worse, to see affordable housing as a right - is now more than embarrassing, it is actively frowned upon.

This "Affordable" portrays paying the incredibly high rates of the private rental market as a duty, and your need for "Affordable" as the failure to manage your finances in accordance with a spiralling housing crisis.

Muggle's Dissent

Just before 1666, a lot of Christians started to freak out about the Millenarian/apocalyptic symbolism of the year. A fair number of Christian sects formed up and started to make their preparations. I had heard of the Ranters and the Diggers, but I hadn't heard of the Muggltonians.

This is Lodowicke Muggleton.

He didn't found the religion, his cousin John Reeve did. But when John heard the voice of God, God told him that Lodowicke was definitely a man to be involved. John called himself and his cousin "The Two Witnesses". John saw himself not so much as starting a religion; more just telling-it-like-it-was re: the coming apocalypse etc.

They had some pretty interesting beliefs. Lots of apocalypse stuff, and some reasoned interpretations of scripture. The sort of thing you expect from deeply religious people who start thinking way too much about a faith they can never reject. I always think of Murderer by (the Mormon) band Low as a good contemporary example of this logic-within-faith thing.

They were also sort of lazy as preachers. One of their things was that they had the power to damn people who scoffed at their ideas, but that meant that they couldn't preach for ethical reasons, because if they did, everyone would laugh at them and then be eternally damned. Which would be super bad PR and also is one more heavy thing to deal with for someone who has recently spoken to God.

They also denied the need for church buildings, priests and even prayer. Before they got their own reading room, they used to meet in the back rooms of pubs, drink beer and sing songs.

I'd read that John Reeve was buried in the New Bethlehem Burial Grounds, underneath the Broadgate Crossrail development at Liverpool Street.

It's a heavily secure site, with the guards and fences you would expect from a development in the city.


I thought that this folder held copies of the court order, but when I tried to take one away, I realised that it was one, long, heavy document.

Turns out Broadgate manage Paternoster square as well. Hence the anti-occupy sentiment.

The Muggletonians were part of the wider non-conformist movement - Christian sects that diverted from the Anglican tradition. Non-conformist is the more progressive way of referring to them: they used to be known as dissenters. Their beliefs were laughable, brave, stupid, clever and illegal, all at the same time. People thought they were worthy only of derision and suspicion at the time, but now we can trace the roots of progressive socialism and atheistic humanism back to various dissenting sects.

It turns out that the site of the Bethlehem Hospital, where John Reeve died, is next door to Liverpool Street station, but on the other side to the Brodgate development. The building is a hotel, with several bars, luxury meeting rooms, and its own masonic temple.

Maybe Occupy London should move in here?

Internet Cul-de-sac #1

"I first learned to ride a bike in the early 1930s on the two asphalt paths that bisected the Level. I recall clashes between the Blackshirts of Sir Oswald Moseley and the Socialists. An ardent member of the latter were the DeLacy family who had a used furniture store on Lewes Road midway between Hartington Road and the arches at Upper Lewes Road. I also remember coming home from Brighton Intermediate School during the same period and seeing many adult men playing football with a tennis ball. It wasn't until much later that I realised these men were the victims of the Great Depression and had nothing else to do. Very sad days in retrospect."