As the often quoted Zen Buddhist koan echoes, ‘If a tree falls in the forest, and there is no one there to witness it, does it make a sound?’ This prompted me to ponder the same but with a different subject, and in a different part of the forest – the one thing that seems somehow indivisible from the human condition; shit.
You might be thinking about bears in the forest at this point taking a shit but let’s not go down to the woods today; you could be in for a big surprise – on the bottom of your shoe or in the alimentary canal of a silly old bear.
But back to the question of today’s blog and some reflections upon it. First, shit: short, blunt, onomatopoeic, synonymous with stuff, production and consumption, waste, long term possessions and daily dispossessions. Trouble every day and everyday problems. Tough shit that you wish would pass but can’t because you are mentally and spiritually constipated, stuck.
And then of course, the good shit – the kind that everyone wants a piece of; good times sold by the gram or the pound, cakewalks in the park and salad days of a happy youth.
But let’s deal with the interesting stuff first – the bad shit. It’s the sound of cancer cells multiplying and diligently spreading in your body while you are busy making plans. It’s a much awaited spring but one without bird song or colour. It’s the sound of a dripping tap in a sink filled with unwashed dishes. It’s a flyshit-speckled neon striplight blinking above a chipped enamel hospital bed. It’s an apple with a maggot in it, or worse, one with half a maggot in it.
But more than anything, it is silence – the worst shit doesn’t make a sound. It’s the sound of quiet desperation, waiting for something to happen that never does. It’s silent consent to evil deeds in full cognizance of the facts. It’s putting the TV news on mute while you eat an evening snack and it’s the silent progression of time but not of thought.
As for the good shit, well in the light of everything above, it’s an increasingly scarce resource to come by, the kind of shit upon which our present day economics of scarcity model is based. Hope for the good shit but be prepared to pay for it because silence is golden.