Ask Andrew W.K.: Please Eat Shit and Die!
Photo by Christopher McLallen
[Editor's note: Every Wednesday, New York City's own Andrew W.K. takes your life questions and sets you safely down the right path to a solution, a purpose, or -- no surprise here -- a party. Need his help? Just ask: AskAWK@villagevoice.com]
Would you please do us all a favor and eat shit and die?
Thanks, I Hate You
Dear I Hate You,
One of the most intriguing and particularly intimate cases of polarity in the phenomenon of eating shit is shit itself. Excrement, feces, diarrhea, and all various forms of human waste -- including urine and vomit -- are simultaneously repellant, yet an intimate part of our own bodies. It's truly astounding when one considers how going to the bathroom is really among the most crucial and fundamental aspects of living. Defecating is secondary only to eating, and is essentially eating in reverse -- intrinsically connected to the experience of growing and surviving.
If we think about it, shit itself is quite literally one of the worst "most important things" in the world. If we picture being tied down and forced to have a substance smeared all over our face and forced into our eyes, nose, and mouth, is it really possible to imagine that substance being something worse than shit? At first, we might think something like vomit could be worse, but after careful and honest introspective thought, if we had to choose, most of us would prefer being forced to put a stranger's vomit in our mouths, as opposed to their fresh feces. Blood, urine, semen, and dead rotting bodies are also awful to imagine eating, but they still don't quite equal the repulsive power of imagining a steaming soupy bagful of strong diarrhea being splashed onto your open-mouthed face.
It's also interesting to note our feelings when we imagine interacting intimately with human shit versus animal shit. The thought of eating dog shit is revolting, but again, for some reason, it doesn't seem quite as bad as the waste of some strange human. Why?
As repulsive as picturing all this is, there's real value and insight to be gained in contemplating these sorts of shitty ideas. For example: As people, we avoid shit at all costs, yet we're literally carrying it around inside of us, and producing mountains of it, right from within our own bodies. Someone pissing their pants is almost a non-event compared to someone shitting their pants. When someone has a horrific crash while doing tricks on a skateboard, we don't say, "He totally drank piss!" We say, "He totally ate shit!" What sounds more insulting, "Fuck you!" or "Eat shit!"? Shit is entirely and completely repellant. And it's meant to be so.
Obviously, our body and mind has gone to great lengths to make us associate everything bad with everything shitty. We most likely will die if we end up eating too much shit. It's a biological fact that shit is full of shitty stuff. We strive to stay as far away from it as possible, and yet it's coming from inside us -- it is made from us. Certain obsessive-compulsive disorders arise in those who fear and detest shit so much, they won't even go to the bathroom. Yet it's interesting to note that by holding all their shit inside their body, they're paradoxically closer to it than ever -- clinging to it, keeping it locked inside themselves, almost like a treasure.
Even the finest gourmet dinner served at the most expensive and luxurious restaurant all turns to shit in just a matter of hours. The best matter -- gourmet food -- becomes the worst matter: shit. Our body takes the finest things and turns them into contaminated garbage, just by it moving through us, from one end to the other. It's reverse alchemy -- turning gold into something worse than lead.
With all this in mind, it's important to think about eating shit, both symbolically and literally. The individual who can eat shit -- their own and others' -- has suddenly removed an enormous weight from their shoulders. Imagine never being afraid of eating anything again. Imagine never being afraid, period. Crossing the line of shit-eating changes you forever. Even if you never really enjoy doing it, you will have crossed an abyss of epic proportions. You'd sort of have nothing else to fear that could compare. Your capacity for withstanding discomfort would be nearly infinite. It's the final test of intimidating action, and something both extremely grotesque yet extremely natural. It's a final frontier.
At the same time, hopefully none of us are ever forced to eat any shit, but if we do eat it, hopefully we can reverse the process once again, and make an upsetting and negative experience into something positive and valuable to our soul. Much like eating helps feed the body, consuming and digesting experiences can feed the soul. If eating shit is unhealthy, contemplating its implications and our own feelings related to it are healthy exercises. Are there other areas of our lives in which we take something good and digest it into something bad? Or vice versa? And are those processes necessary for our own survival? Perhaps we should avoid the bad shit we eliminated from our lives, but occasionally challenge ourselves to re-ingest it?
The more we can see the miraculous processes of our own body as extensions of the world around us, the more we can master this state of being alive. Everything has something to teach us about something else. We can learn from contemplating our greatest repulsions and fears, and examine how our own internal processes illustrate and exemplify the very process of life itself. Everything is precious and valuable to our spirit, even shit. Your friend, Andrew W.K.
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