June 28, 2007

Horse 775 - I Poop, I Quit, I'm Free!

Have you ever felt like you were pregnant but just really needed to take a big dump?

Standing there, crushed from all sides, two-thirds of the way down the bus, hanging on by one finger from the ceiling pole, you wish that you had thought to go before you started the journey home. The stop-start peristalsis of the heavy downtown traffic only serves to constantly remind you of your uncomfortable predicament, denying you the luxury of putting your mind elsewhere. You're sure you can actually feel the gradual increase of internal pressure, but suspect that it is just an illusion created by a vindictive subconscious. You shift from one leg to the other, but know that that is a fairly futile attempt to relieve your discomfort. Only one, but in your current location, unthinkable, action could possibly end your torment. There is just no escaping the fact that you're stuck on a bus, really needing a poop.

Only two more stops to go now. You consciously clench your buttocks to ensure that any sneaky sudden farts don't take you and your fellow passengers by surprise. While you do so, you stare resolutely downward and steal a glance at your watch, instantly forgetting the time. You realise that's good, though, because it gives you the excuse of looking again in a few minutes, giving you a small window of relief before the inevitable pressure returns again. Another added bonus is that it means you can better avoid eye-contact with your fellow commuters: the strain just might be showing on your face. A bead of tickly sweat runs slowly down your neck, even though it is neither hot nor humid where you are.

The situation worsens as you step off the bus and head for the subterrainian depths of the railway station. A sign on their convniences proclaims that they're closed for cleaning but the door is locked and in all honesty, it looks like they haven't actually been cleaned since 1963. A mad rush for a train follows and it's back to standing in croweded place, but this time there os the accompanying smell of death that always follows commuters at the end of the day, so it's relief when you finally do step out at your station and watch as great plumes of noxious gas also follow out of the train doors, so you start walking for home.

There finally. Not quite running, for the sake of appearances, round the corner and across the road, you walk stiff-legged through your door. Jacket off and chucked on the sofa, through the lighter door, pants down and seated. At last. The release is sudden, and good enough to give you goose-bumps on your thighs. Finished, and you are pleased to discover that it's one of those that requires minimal wiping. Also, a solid sinker, so that there is little chance of embarrassing residue left for your flatmates. A deep sigh while you look in the mirror, and you consider what to think about and do next. Most of all, you're now very, very happy.

Imagine all that, and you are imagining the kind of joy of release people feel when they voluntarily leave a job. The chances are, that if you see a colleague come back to their desk and sit with just a contented grin on there face, they've just handed in their notice. It could be that they're back from a good dump, but most people get their poop-grinning over with in the cubicle or while washing hands. It would have to be pretty damn good for them still to be smiling when they got back to their desk. But both kinds of joy are based on the same basic feeling of some kind of release. The joy arises from the fact that any release provides an increase in freedom. The properties of this relationship are the topic of this article, and the two concurrent examples given above, of voluntarily quitting a job and of having a good poop, will be developed further to show the intricacies and boundaries of this relationship.

The examples of quitting and pooping have been chosen for this illustration as they are both clear examples of an event through which an individual is released from some sort of boundary to their freedom. The physical need to relieve oneself of inner bodily tension is an innate animal feeling that every person experiences and with which they can easily empathise. Similar feelings are the scratching of itches, sneezing, and vomiting. It is at least theoretically possible that an individual could have never had an itch, sneezed, quit a job, or driven the porcelain bus, so the absolutely universal practice of faecal release is used here as a metaphor due to its complete inclusivity.

The physical feeling of release can be looked at as the relief of some sort of bodily discomfort. This definition must be examined at a deeper level in order to appreciate the relationship with freedom. What is physical discomfort but the persistence of some body part or bodily function in distracting the attention of the mind? This shows physical discomfort to be similar to any kind of mental or social bind or commitment, the release from which does produce a similar feeling of joy. When the persistent attention demanded by an impatient bowel is released, the mind is then freer to pursue its whim. This is plainly similar to the ending of a social, mental or even, but more indirectly, financial, bind in that after one is released from its chains, the mind has a greater degree of freedom. Is then, the more physical feeling of satisfaction some kind of mental reward for removing a barrier to its freedom to roam?

A positive answer to the above question involves reliance upon some kind of mind/body duality that can be easily challenged philosophically. A more graceful and intuitive way of explaining why the feeling of release feels good is thus: After a sudden transition from a situation that is somehow restrictive (remember this includes physical discomforts that can be described as mentally restrictive due to the attention they demand) to one that is not, the memory of the restriction is most vivid. As that memory fades, the feeling of joy of release also fades. In other words, the joy of release changes in proportion to a perceived increase in some kind of freedom.

This hypothesis may be taken to give new weight to political argument about the value of freedom. While it is true that the realisation of the relationship between freedom and the feeling of release does give personal liberty a new weight by linking it to actual undeniable feelings of joy, I shy away from the responsibility of taking this argument that far. The statement "Man must be made free because it feels good when you poop" could have political or even revolutionary consequences far beyond the imagination of this humble philosopher. Perhaps as this realisation spreads, humankind may finally realise the equal worth of every person, and treat each one with the respect and kindness they deserve.

Such thoughts and statements are far too rich for a person with my weak stomach for confrontation, and so I leave them to others braver than myself to make. I will however make one final statement following from my argument that will help reassure many people who may, perhaps, be weighing up their present vocational situation: Quitting a job is pleasant due to the large load you will drop. Just like a nice big dump, however, invaribly you will eventually need to do it again.

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