Sunday, April 28, 2013

why wiping my ass is suddenly disconcerting

[Master Hakuin] asked the crazy monk, "They say you are using Buddhist scriptures for toilet paper. Is that so?"

The crazy monk said, "Yes. I myself am a Buddha. What is wrong with using Buddhist scriptures to wipe a Buddha's ass?"

Hakuin said, "You're wrong. Since it's a Buddha's ass, why use old paper with writing on it? You should wipe it with clean white paper."

The crazy monk was shamed, and he apologized.

--from Zen Antics, translated and edited by Thomas Cleary

Like you, Fellow Human, I have an asshole. Shit comes out of it periodically, but as is often the case with vomiting, shitting is a messy process that requires, at its conclusion, a bit of orifice-wiping. I haven't puked in decades, so my memory of the event is a bit faded, but I do recall the combination of an acrid, bilious taste in my mouth and a feeling of overwhelming relief once the puking was done. Immediately afterward, I would rinse my mouth out and wipe my lips with a paper towel. I can't do that with my asshole, unfortunately: not being Le P├ętomane, I can't make it gargle. So that leaves only wiping.

Normally, like you, Fellow Human, I sit on that Great White Bowl and do my business, perhaps with a grunt here, perhaps with a heave there, and almost always with a feeling of dissatisfaction because I know, like Mr. Creosote, that There's Still More. I'm convinced that I'm afflicted with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, a condition that normally strikes women. People with IBS normally shit part-way, then can shit no further until a few minutes or a few hours later, when the urge will suddenly strike again. This can happen several times before the victim feels quite empty, and it makes for highly inconvenient interruptions at meals, social events, and the like.

Aside from the above discomfiting biological fact, though, I think I'm like most people: shit, wipe, flush, leave. Personally, I'm a back-to-fronter, which means that instead of reaching behind me to wipe, I lean forward and plunge my hand betwixt my hams, dragging that wad of tissue perineum-ward. I do as thorough of a job as I can while leaning forward, then flush and call it a day.

It's the leaning forward that has become problematic since my arrival in Seoul. You see, the apartment I'm in has a very nice full bathroom (i.e., toilet, sink, and tub/shower) surfaced with shiny tiles on the walls and floor.

And floor.

Starting to see the problem? Me, I see it every time I go to take a dump. I lean forward to wipe... and see myself staring back at me. This is unnerving, to say the least. I feel a bit like the kitten or puppy that, not understanding mirrors, sees its reflection in one and thinks it's seeing a completely different animal. Who is this large man ogling me while I scrape tissue across my crotch?

There's a special sort of shame felt by people who catch themselves in the act of doing something naughty or otherwise embarrassing, be it crying, eating messily, dancing badly, or whatever. That's the shame I feel every time I catch myself in medias wipe. I don't have this problem at my apartment in Virginia because those bathroom tiles aren't reflective enough to produce a clear image. But here, in this Seoul apartment, I see the large man and cringe.

Just thought you should know.



  1. Wiping the opposite way I've not experienced that particular phenomenon. I'll count myself lucky.

    Although since those bowl-top bidets came into my life, I'm more about drying than wiping anyway. And when I get "stuck" I just blast that water up my ass till it won't hold any more, then let it go and have a pleasing purge if you will. Is that priming the pump or clearing the pipes? Whatever, it works for me.

  2. Whether you squeeze it all out in one sitting or divvy up your bowel movements... there is always more. We will continue to void our bowels until the day we die, and--if South Park is to be believed--it will be the last thing our lifeless bodies do.

    Kind of makes you think.



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