When you travel a lot, as I was doing a while back, certain things, commonplace things, can become quite fascinating for various reasons.
Recently I had an interesting memory of a trip I took to Amsterdam, with its chocolate and canals and… toilets. The first experience I had of the Amsterdam toilet was in our B and B. The world of toilets is in itself a fascinating study in innovation and diversity. Each city, each culture, each people achieve a remarkable variety with their places of release, as it were. So it is always very interesting to encounter the first one in a country. This subject could be a whole separate psychological and cultural comparison study all on it’s own, but back to Amsterdam because it was where I learned the most.
I awoke, groggy, after a night spent on a bed that was too soft and a head still struggling with jet lag. I stumbled to the washroom and sat down on the toilet for my morning constitutional as visions of exploring this new city wondered through my mind. Then I arose complete and turned to flush and release the deposit, only to discover it proudly sitting on a little platform above the water in the bowl staring back at me. In my confused jet lagged state I paused mid way as I leaned in to pull the handle. My first thought was that I had somehow miss-aimed.
Slowly the realization came to me that it was the design of this toilet to catch and display the product. After my initial shock I quickly flushed and continued on with my washing up. Over the days I began to take an interest in seeing what ended up on that little platform. Thoughts about shape, colour, and texture became more interesting then I ever thought possible.
I also began to see the benefits. This ingenious design gave me a chance to observe and admire before sending everything down the drain. I had a lot more information then before. Corn, for example, did not seem to digest very well for me. I began to think that maybe that is why my stomach was sometimes upset after a meal containing corn. I decided that in the future I may or may not eat corn anymore. And beets… well anyway you get the picture, more that you wanted perhaps!
Before this I rarely had the opportunity or the inclination to look at what ended up in the toilet, preferring to simply flush. The construction of the toilet that I grew up with had a drain obscuring the view. So whatever went in seemed to disappear and there was never much to look at or contemplate. I could pretty much ignore it. Whether this was good or bad I don’t know. It was what it was. Or was it?
This memory of Amsterdam and the design of that toilet in particular got me thinking about many things. But especially about the way we observe our sh** and by extension what we do with it, both literally and metaphorically speaking. Many people, myself included, hold it up in the air, immortalizing it. “Look at my sh**.” “This is the sh** I have been through.” “See all the sh** that has been done to me. ”
We begin to think it defines us, that that is what we are. We carry it around with us as if it were a badge of honour. We drag it out at every party and at every family function often repeating it to people who have already heard it many times. We continue to take what has been behind us (literally) and smear it all over our present and often even fling some into the future just in case we might forget it. It begins to colour and smell up our whole world, we start to feel we cannot escape it.
Spiritual teachings say where ever we go, there we are. There is no escape. I am just not sure if we always have to take all our sh** with us. I know to be an eco camper you have to take out of the forest everything you took in and leave nothing behind. But we could compost. Take all the lessons, the messages, the deeper meaning and then just let the rest become fertilizer, our fertilizer.
The lotus flower grows best in effluent. But you never see them covered in it. No they are pure, clean and beautiful, serenely blooming far above it all. Could this be an option for us? Even though deeply rooted in it, we at the same time flower above it, wonderfully detached. We are growing from it, thriving in it, even thriving because of it.
Yes sh** happens, so now what? Do we hang on to it for dear life or ignore it completely or do we, as I learned in Amsterdam, stop, observe and flush?
Can you imagine what it would be like to quickly and effectively process our own sh** and even sh** that may get thrown at us by others? Now that would be great wouldn’t it?
But how? Well I had some thoughts about that too. Interested? Stay tuned.
To be continued…