“The subject of an essay does not need to prove itself worthy of the writer or reader’s care, but rather that the force of the care in the writing should be able to render any subject worthy.” (Lucas Mann)
Hmm. Let’s find out if that’s true…
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The other day during my morning run I glanced down to see what appeared to be a sparkling, ornate brooch on the sidewalk a few steps ahead of me. It glistened in the new sunlight, prism-like, the jeweled facets shimmering in greens and golds and blues and reds.
Two paces away from it I watched the thing erupt. The gems broke apart and flew into the air.
A pile of dog poop remained.
At first glance a hoard of flies munching feces looked pretty darned pretty.
Wow, I thought. A meditation about this could go in so many different directions. I spent the rest of my run mulling over a few of them.
According to local ordinance, the pooper-scooper law requires dog owners to remove and dispose of feces that their dogs have deposited on public areas or another person’s property.
Irritated by the absence of common courtesy demonstrated by the scofflaw owner of the dog who dropped his pile on the sidewalk, I thanked the bright and colorful flies for drawing my attention to it, so it didn’t end up squished into the treads of my running shoes.
Beauty from Ashes (or from A**es)
How wonderful, I thought, that God has constructed the world in such a way that the ugly stinkiness of poop can be camouflaged by the splendor of crystalline wings reflecting a spectral rainbow to the viewer. How amazing that an item so reviled and despised by certain creatures might be so cherished by and nourishing to other creatures, and in its consumption be metamorphosed into a thing of loveliness, like the Beast who is transformed under the loving gaze of the Beauty.
On the other hand, fecal matter is fecal matter, no matter how you dress it up. It is the refuse of a gastrointestinal tract which could find no further use for the remaining vestiges of the Dog Chow.
Like Tricky Dick Nixon insisting to America in 1972 that the war in Vietnam was proceeding smashingly, or Bernie Madoff-With-My-Money promising a guaranteed and legal financial windfall, or Donald Trump (Hey! His name has the word “Rump” in it. Go figure.) professing familiarity with heroism or honor or integrity, what a thing is is what a thing is.
One can take a turd, dip it in chocolate, and line it up inside a candy box with eleven other chocolate-dipped turds, then wrap the box in a bow and give it as a gift. But it is not actually a gift. Because it is a box of turds.
But even turds have a purpose in the cycle of life. Fecal matter decomposes into the ground, albeit slowly (i.e., this does not serve as justification for failing to pick up after your dog, Slacker Dog Owner), replenishing the earth with composted materials. These chemical compounds nourish the flora which in turn nourish the fauna and regenerate themselves back through the environmental system.
But this specimen landed on concrete. Hot, impermeable, impassive concrete. Like seed sown on rocky ground, it will not and cannot participate in the cycle of life.
It’s just gross. And fruitless. And offensive.
An Obstacle to Overcome
And it stood in my path, a potential landmine of ruination to the successful completion of my morning exercise. Had I stepped in it, my footwear would have reeked of its relentless odor until I took the shoe off and cleaned it vigorously. I would have had to curtail my run, as the poop occupied a place in space and time very near the beginning of my route.
However, I did not splat my sole into the steaming pile of brown sliminess. Instead, I veered to the left of it, avoiding a distasteful interaction. This generated an attitude of gratitude in me: for the keenness of my eyes, which saw the offending obstacle; for a healthy body, which could circumnavigate the obstacle; and for a functioning mind, which could plot a path around the obstacle, then spend far too long pondering the obstacle’s deeper meaning.
If it actually has any.
What is the end of the matter, then? In the immortal words of Sage Taro Gomi, “Everyone Poops.” There is poop that is yours and poop that drops into your path from the careless loins of others. It may be disgusting or divine, wicked or winsome, hateful or possibly even holy. But regardless of its existential significance, it is there.
Yes, friends, there will be poop.