Sitting, Full of Shit

By Adam S. Miller

The familiarity of Academy routine took on a crushing cumulative aspect. The total number of times I’d schlepped up the rough cement steps of the stairwell, seen my faint red reflection in the paint of the fire door, walked the 56 steps down the hall to our room, opened the door and eased it gently back flush in the jamb to keep from waking Mario. I re-experienced the year’s total number of steps, movements, the breaths and pulses involved. Then the number of times I would have to repeat the same processes, day after day, in all kinds of light, until I graduated and moved away and then began the same exhausting processes of exit and return in some dormitory at some tennis-power university somewhere. Maybe the worst part of the cognitions involved the incredible volume of food I was going to have to consume over the rest of my life. Meal after meal, plus snacks. Day after day after day. Experiencing this food in toto. Just the thought of the meat alone. One megagram? Two megagrams? I experienced, vividly, the image of a  broad cool well-lit room piled floor to ceiling with nothing but the lightly breaded chicken fillets I was going to consume over the next sixty years. The number of fowl vivisected for a lifetime’s meat. The amount of hydrochloric acid and bilirubin and glucose and glycogen and gloconol produced and absorbed and produced in my body. And another, dimmer room, filled with the rising mass of the excrement I’d produce, the room’s double-locked steel door gradually bowing outward with the mounting pressure . . . . I had to put my hand out against the wall and stand there hunched until the worst of it passed.

—David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest, p. 897


Glossing the Buddha’s first noble truth, let’s say that the aim of meditation is the production of an obvious but vital revelation: shit happens.

I mean this literally. Shit reveals life’s most basic shape: life happens in bodies and bodies are organs of passing.

I am a body, a mouth and an anus. I have a brain, but this brain sits on top of a mouth on top of a stomach on top of some eight meters of bowels. I have a heart for circulating food, lungs for burning it, a nervous system for detecting it, a brain for plotting about it, and limbs for chasing it down. I put the world in my mouth and the world passes through me.

What is the most obvious thing I can say about life? I’m hungry.

Bodies are organs for passing, not for clinging. You can keep part of what you eat, but only for a time. Digestion is the pulse of intra-thoracic time. The rumble in your gut is impermanence made manifest.

Life is this passing. Death is the shitless. Continue reading “Sitting, Full of Shit”