I recall one day when I came out of the toilet after releasing a major payload and my son barged into the quarantined zone, protesting, "Dad, stink!" I smirked at him and murmured, "Well, the only unpretentious thing about us is what comes out from there."
That was some time ago, and while visiting Scotland, Edinburgh Castle yesterday, a conversation between my mother-in-law and my wife triggered that memory. We were visiting one of the royal rooms of the birth of King James IV and Queen Mary where giant portraits of past royalties were hung. There is certainly a huge (quite irreconcilable) gap between how the privileged and the commoners lived during that time (and even today). In passing, my mother-in-law made this remark: "Wow, aren't they just like us? Normal people?" And my wife replied: "Yes, they also wear pants, eat and go toilet right?"
I thought about what she'd said and my earlier musing, that is, the toilet and that unpretentious bit and something within me started bubbling...
I guess what really makes us equal is that none of us is exempt from processing and discharging waste. You can't get any more democratic than that. No doubt I am talking about shit here and it is disgusting to say the least. However, I have a point and I ask for your forbearance.
Essentially, what I have to say is merely metaphorical of what we do everyday in the toilet. The MO has not changed since time immemorial. No one can thus claim ignorance or unfamiliarity about it. I am not writing here for effect. I have thought about it long enough and the thought of our toilet habit actually imparts a lesson (even if it is a squirming one).
If I can take you by the hand and lead you to this symbolic world of taking a dump, you will find that you are no different from me. The act remains the same whether you are a Chinese, an Indian, an American, a Rabbi, the President or the Queen of England.
The rich may do it in the comfort of their mansion but they do it the same way the homeless does it. Royalty may do it while reading a book and sipping a spot of tea but the act is neither different nor grander than a commoner squatting in the corner of a harvest field under God's watchful eye. And the dictator of an impoverished state may do it while ordering the extermination of rebels but the mode of discharging differs not from those at the receiving end of his tyranny. We all shit and it all comes out the same way from the same and only exit we have come to know since we were born.
I recall a famous conversation that goes like this:-
F. Scott Fitzgerald: "The rich are different from us." Ernest Hemingway: "Yes, they have more money."
Truly. Other than that, we are all alike and the plainest and the most indispensable act of shitting equalizes us all. That's my point.
Although the payload may vary in size, form and color, it still bears repeating that there's no difference whether you are a military general or a foot soldier, a billionaire or a mine-worker, a Nobel Laureate or a student.
Even more to the point is that stripped of all wealth, power, fame, beauty, pomp, glory and credentials, when it comes to doing our toilet business, we cannot get any more unpretentious than that. That is where we all stand on common ground.
So, we need to remind ourselves more about it when we are tempted to discriminate against color, creed, race, language and religion. For the humility of our most compromised position ought to join us together and not shy/tease us apart. And if we stand tallest when we are on our knees, then we stand together - equal - when we are on the seat.
Let me end with this thought. I can imagine the wealthiest man in the world or the most beautiful face you have ever seen or the most elaborate royalty converging together in the most democratic of places and that is the unassuming toilet bowl. Every beauty, wealth and greatness will have to sit in earnest on the receiving end of their waste discharge.
And kings and queens may squirm about the indignity of associating with a commoner or bemoan the squalidness of a destitute’s home but he or she - notwithstanding the pomp and ornaments - will have to submit to that familiar pull in the stomach, that squeeze in the bowel, and that urge to visit the toilet.
For me, the call of nature is the call for us to always remember that we are human first, joined together in a shared bond, from a common origin, and advancing towards a certain end, and the accouterment of what society calls wealth, fame and status that we put on for public showcasing should never be that which define or divide us. That is what the philosophy of shit means to me. And by extension, that is also the most unpretentious (and authentic) part about us. Cheerz.