Tuesday, November 15, 2005

postal scrotum: entities, quantities, and shit

Jason W. writes in with some serious questions:


A couple of rambling and probably incoherent questions-- one philosophical and one purely practical-- which have been literally bugging the shit out of me recently:

Question #1: I am a person who isn't happy until I've had my daily shit. Usually I can time it to the minute (10:35 a.m. most days with one cup of coffee, 10:07 if I also choose to have a muffin, 35 minutes earlier still if that muffin happens to contain bran) before I roll up my Washington Post and take the Dead Man Walk to the elevator to the 5th floor men's room (for some reason the toilets up there get better suction than the ones down on the first floor, but that is neither here nor there).

Anyway, here's my question: How can we accurately quantify "a shit" as a measurable unit?

Is "a shit" the sum product of each time you relax those intestinal muscles? Of course it is. But what if, by some unfortunate turn of events, you're forced to leave a few torpedos in the tube? Maybe you're constipated and have to leave the rest for later, maybe you need to wait for it to rotate nose-down in order to avoid a breached birth, maybe some stupid jackass coworker pulled the fire alarm when he meant to turn on the lights, but whatever it was, that session abruptly ends in feces interruptus, and you know there's still more left to come. Can that leftover slop still be considered part of the original "shit", or does it by virtue of of its tenacity to cling to the lower GI for a bit longer earn the right to claim full shithood?

I personally think two artificially separated bowel movements still deserve to be lumped together (if you'll excuse the choice of words) in the singular. Just as a mother refers to giving birth to twins--who can hardly say they were born at the exact same time--in the singular sense, the two sessions are actually part of a larger (w)hole. I came to feel this way after coming home and proudly announcing to my long-suffering wife one day that I had taken three shits at work. However, after dwelling perhaps excessively on this triumph, my boasting began to ring hollow in my own ears since I knew full well that those were the sum product of a single bulgogi frenzy the night before. Following the G.I.G.O. principle, I began to wonder where the end truly begins here.

But simultaneously, we encounter the variable of time. For example, most people accept the fact that the Koreas were once one country, but after being split for so long, can they truly be considered "one" now? Most would say no, because somewhere along the the course of 60 years the "One" became in reality "Two". Perhaps the same holds true for shit. Of course, time is relative here (after all, a 60 year old shit wouldn't still be considered shit, would it?), and proponents of the "Two Shits" theory can use this to argue that any passage of time renders the two parts of a cable divided distinct and independent of one another. (I know I'm undermining my own argument here, but this is what's been driving me crazy. Every time I make up my mind I think of a new reason why the other way of thinking is better.)

So tell me, as a non-consuming connoisseur of scat, where do you see the cut-off line here? Is it temporally based? Geographically? Is it based on ratios (say, if over 1/2 of the total comes out during the first go)? Differing textures and colors? Dammit, we need answers, man---for science!

Question # 2 also has to do with shit, but this time its role in back country wintertime survival strategy.

Having grown up in eastern Washington, I know about cold winters and long hikes to find entertainment. Sometimes my boyhood wintertime hikes would take me so far away from home that I would have to squeeze one off in a snowdrift and watch it sink like Superman's green shard of Kryptonite (the one he threw in the snow to make his Fortress of Solitude in Superman 2). Having stopped to take a dump and then admire it steaming there in the cold January wind, I would invariably begin to feel cold, even after continuing with my hike. Would I have been better off keeping that steaming turd in my body, so as to more easily maintain my core temperature? What do they teach the Swiss army (who, with the lower air pressure, I would think encounter this motherfucker on a daily basis)? I mean really, when you think about it, a choco-brick really is nature's ideal way to retain heat, and unless you've got serious emotional problems and don't mind getting your hands messy, once it's out, it's out. So I suppose my question is more along the lines of WWGAD? (What Would Grizzly Adams Do?)

Have a good Tuesday.



Jason, I'm pretty sure the only reason you wrote this missive is that you were keen to try that clever "part of a larger (w)hole" joke on someone.

My own view is similar to the Buddhist one: the division of shit into shit-units is a function of the mind and not a reflection of shit's nature, which is, of course, empty. At what point does shit become shit in your digestive system? The question is just as vexing as the question of when a group of cells "becomes a human life," as they phrase it in the ongoing abortion debate. At the very least, with shit, we don't have to deal with the question of DNA and cloning: thanks to cloning, it is now possible to view any viable cell as harboring the potential to bring about a human life. There's nothing to stop anti-abortion activists from singing, Monty Python-style, that "every cell is sacred."

Regarding the "three shits" versus "one shit" issue in your bulgogi example: Dr. Vallicella has dealt more seriously with this question on his fine blog. While he hasn't used shit as the object of speculation, he has used such things as parcels of land and the Holy Trinity (the concept of which appears to him incoherent*). I highly recommend that you visit this link to his blog, which also includes a post about the input end of the GI tract: what's going on when you eat a cookie?

A practical answer to your question would be that you can reckon shit output the way hospitals reckon the output of shit, puke, and other emissions: You measure only what fully leaves the body in a single incident/instance. Given that your shits occur so regularly (hats off, by the way), it would be easy to gauge your shitticular output over time. Just pick a metric and stick with it like a fly on... well, a dead cat.

As for your second question, I'm pretty sure Grizzly Adams and the Zen masters and the Swiss Army would all agree that, when it's time to drop that load, there's really little use arguing with Mother Nature. When the ass-baby is screaming to get out and kicking violently against your "bomb bay doors," to use a favorite term of the now-debased radio personality, The Greaseman, then any mountain becomes a Fortress of SoliTurd.

Release the beast!

*Matters of faith, I'm sure we all agree, often do not require logical coherence. To call an article of belief "incoherent" is not to be deliberately offensive, but merely to use a less-polished term than "holy mystery."


1 comment:

Maven said...

See, I think if a nugget remains behind, it acts almost like a chunk of liver tissue; that it will in turn, generate into a full fledged turd. So each time you dump, each dump is a dump rather than one more loaf in a never ending dump.

PS: It's been ages since I've even thought of The Greaseman!!! Snarlins! Snarlins! I used to listen to him on my way home when I worked in Princeton. He'd come on after Dr. Drivel... I mean, "Dr. Laura."