andy warhol by nat finkelstein
Had a great big shit happens moment last Sunday. About every Sunday I watch the race at Justin's. This week we were not able to watch it because the tv was temporarily out, not working. It just happened to be the day Jr Earnhardt won his first race in 4 years. It so happens he is the driver Justin pulls for in every race. Not only did Earnhardt win the race, but led much of it, drove a stellar race. Justin is disappointed every week Earnhardt doesn't win, for 4 years, and now the Sunday the tv is out, Jr Earnhardt won the race. That's what I call a shit happens moment. Not "it" happens, as they say on tv, but shit happens. It is as natural a law as gravity, evolution and Murphy's Law (paraphrased: if something can go wrong, it will). It's too bad the natural law of shit happens has a word in its name the white middle class is afraid of. Makes you sound low class, like you don't have an education. The way I see it, it's too bad for you if it takes not saying shit to show your education. All I can say is, an education aint much if all there is to it depends on the use of one word. You can do stupid stuff all the time, talk down to children, shun the working class, hoop&holler with a beer can when a football team makes a touchdown on tv, and then go about thinking you're taken for clever and astute for not saying shit, and for correcting others who do. When they look in the toilet after they're done, I know they don't think, "manure." They look at it every day or two, but get all tore up when somebody speaks the forbidden word.
A moment came to mind from childhood. A neighbor kid was in the house and I was showing him information I'd found on American Indians, plains Indians in particular. I forget what form it was in, like book, comic book or whatever else. At the term "buffalo chips" he asked, "What's that?" My mother was in the same room, so I leaned toward him and whispered, "shit." Mother said, "You could have said manure." I couldn't give her an answer, because I was thinking: I could have said poopie, ca-ca, doo-doo, number 2, but shit is what it is. However, like Steven Seagal says just before he shoots somebody, "Wrong answer." Gulp it down, say, "OK." OK in that time was the same as "Whatever" is now. I can't help but think it an absurdity to forbid the word shit. It is NO BIG DEAL. It is just a word. Even for kids. Babies play in it and are taught it's "dirty," not so much in the physical way, though it is pretty much the essence of dirty, but in a moral way, like it's BAD, it's NOT OK, but you're supposed to do it. Icky poo, don't touch. Babies don't know it stinks. They're taught it stinks by adults. I don't believe it would "stink" nearly so much to us if we were not taught from baby on up that it stinks. I believe it can be taught that keeping clean of it is practical and healthy without making a great moral issue of it. Of course, in our time, we do it indoors, so it becomes an intimate issue. So we can't say it. We can't talk about between-the-legs nastiness. Bad manners. Dirty.
I learned in the time of taking care of Jr Maxwell when his dementia was so far along he had no mind at all, no conscious mind, no memory, living totally in the present. This was a large part of why I found watching him closely so fascinating. He was living totally in the present moment, no thought of past or future. Like a baby in that way. Everything new, chairs and tables just objects without names or purpose. And that was the time he shit like a baby, as it happened, wherever it happened. Before that phase started, I said that's where I draw the line. Nursing homes is where they clean up shit. That's more than I can handle. The first time was horrible. Incredibly horrible. The smell was overwhelming. The second time was easier for me, didn't smell nearly as bad. By about the 5th time I didn't smell anything, and it was no problem to deal with. Put on latex gloves and when I'm done, peel them off, drop them in the trash bag, done. I never learned to like it, didn't try to. Gradually the nastiness went out of it for me. I dreaded cleaning it up, but in the time of actually cleaning up after a shit storm, I had a routine set, one step at a time, The washing machine paid for itself in that time.
I look back at that time not feeling gross and nasty, like I would be an Untouchable in India if I touched it. I'm not in India. They can do it their way. My way is to get done what needs doing, what Woody Allen calls, "Whatever it takes." I have to confess too, that each time I had to approach such a mess, I tended to walk in a tight circle in the living room for a few minutes thinking about the steps of dealing with this particular incident. When I got it lined out in my head, I went to the kitchen closet for the bucket and sponges, the tools. Warm water from the bathtub faucet. There was nothing sacrifice about it for me. It wasn't dirty either. It was one thing and one thing only: shit happens. I was taking care of a friend I respected to the sky, someone I believed God had given me for a teacher, the only man I've known with wisdom. In him I learned wisdom cannot be found in the academic world, in the world of books, in second-hand learning. Wisdom is experiential, comes directly from experience. The spiritual path is a path of experience, first-hand direct experience. It would only be right for a man of wisdom to be found living as a farmer, a sawmiller, a bulldozer operator. His work had always been solitary, as farming is. A man with a good mind for figuring things out and all day every day to think and assess experience is a lot closer to wisdom than a PhD in Philosophy, and I don't mean to throw off on Philosophy or PhD. That's knowledge, information, which I have no problem with. It's just that knowledge is not where wisdom comes from.
Cleaning up after the only man of wisdom I knew, who had become a friend over the years and had no one to help him stay out of a nursing home. He was mortified of going to one. I had the time, Social Security to cover my own monthly expenses. I wanted to help him have the right to die at home in his own bed, as he wanted it. By then I had become a friend he could trust. I wanted to show him how I valued his trust, how I respected who he was/is. In the time his mind was going away, he said to me, "I wish I could pay you for what you're doing for me." I said, "You paid in advance. Five years of sharing with me the best liquor made in this world is worth a lot. You're paid in full." Initially, I meant that to be a joke, humor, something light-hearted to say, something to make him smile. I heard the truth in it as I heard myself say it. I think he did too, at least his version of it wherever his mind was at the time. It was my way of telling him I wouldn't do this for money. This has nothing to do with pay or gratitude or anything not present tense. I was there because he needed help, no one else was either able or willing to help him stay out of a nursing home.
Our birth dates and death dates are all that are left of us in the future. I wanted my friend's death date to be at least where he wanted it to be. It makes me grateful to see that I have become who I have become. In youth what I imagined I wanted to become involved position, money, things. I see now that what I have become to some degree is in the world not of it. By now I couldn't be "of it" if I took lessons in it. Memory isn't good enough to retain any of it. It's been my Dream as far back as I can remember to reach that place, not really knowing what it is or how to get there. I'm finding that just living my life, taking care of buisness, gettin-er-done, enjoying my life, I feel very much in the world, not of it. I don't think it has anything to do with not drinking, or not this, or not that, or not anything from a long list without an end, the list of You Better Not, but everybody does. Withdrawing from "the world" it is necessary to have at least something like an oxygen tank to carry on the back until varieties of wants have fallen away. "The world" has to do with desire for money, for status, desire, desire, wanna, gotta, needta. In this time of my life I don't want anything I don't already have, unless it would be a new tank of gas every few weeks and enough food to get by. I'm glad when things don't work out as intended to know about the natural law that sums up why.