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.