How do you shit?

by Cristóbal

Bardamu, fleeing from the policeman’s gaze, sinks into the submerged Metró restrooms of New York City. Unlike the gaunt looks on the surface, he sees—

Such free-and-easy intimacy, such extraordinary intestinal familiarity, and up on the street such perfect restraint. It left me stunned.

Sudden outburst of digestive vulgarity. Discovery of a joyous shitting communism.

Céline channels Rabelais. He brings forth the scatological—not death, as the esch” is barred, but excrement, feces, and shit. The etymological co-incidence is certainly not coincidence, but here we will remain vulgar. We’re told by Screech that Pantagruel was read aloud to François I for himself to judge as orthodox. Perhaps in Renaissance literature the signifier had not yet detached itself from nature. To talk about shit was the same as talking about a tree, a matter-of-fact.

But all this vulgar discussion is not without reason. Today, shitting remains as part of our backstage (along with private thoughts, periods, and pornography). We do it behind close doors and eliminate all traces of the activity, as fully as possible. Indeed, mammals have evolved separate tracts for reproduction and digestion. Rabelais has no such prudishness.

It is from the cloaca that life emerges, indistinguishable from waste. Digestive, reproductive, and urinary tracts are combined. Gombrowicz remarks that Rabelais writes the way a child pees against a tree, in order to relieve himself”. In his novel, we’re told that it is during the prosperous Year of Fat Medlars, when legs, shoulders, backs, bullocks, and cocks swell, that giants (Pantagruel) and jesters (Panurge) are born.

In some it was their bellies that swelled up, and those bellies grew as convex as fat barrels. Of them it is written, Almighty and Everlasting Guts. [They were all fine folk and good jesters.] From that stock were born Saint Paunch and Mardi Gras.

Rather than an explicit moment of anti-structure, Rabelais sees life as always about digestion, reproduction, and death. The soil of the earth is fertilized by excrement. From ripeness grows clownish humor, countering the foolosophers” seriousness. Today, this doesn’t seem to be the case. Karl Ove begins his autobiographical struggle with such a reflection—

There are few things that arouse in us greater distaste than to a see a human being caught up in [death], at least if we are to judge by the efforts we make to keep corpses out of sight. […] We know this is how it is, but we do not want to face it. Hence the collective act of repression symbolized by the concealment of our dead. What exactly it is that is being repressed, however, is not so easy to say.

What exactly is being repressed? You can shine light on these dim, moist interstices between the cheeks in the most banal way—ask your friends.

How do you shit?
Only at home, or in public restrooms?
In the morning, or when the urge swells?
Feet flat, or on their tips?
Elbows resting on the knees? Arms wrapped in an embrace?
Is your phone in hand?
Do you crumple or fold the toilet paper?
Fold in half or in thirds?
Do you wipe from back-to-front, or front-to-back?
Squatting, or one leg lifted?
Left or right leg?
After wiping, do you look?
Until it’s white… Or red?
Into the trash or down the toilet?
Or perhaps, a bidet?
Will a shower do instead?
Does it feel dirty?

The variety and inconsistency of responses with regards to shitting, a most banal of tasks, should point you towards a latent instability under the veil of order and modernity. What seems normal to one, is revolting to the other. Unable to be folded into into our common narratives, barred by moralizing demands, reality intrudes where it can. Bataille, The Accursed Share

For if we do not have the force to destroy the surplus energy ourselves, it cannot be used, and, like an unbroken animal that cannot be trained, it is this energy that destroys us; it is we who pay the price of the inevitable explosion.