Like many people who spend a lot of time up in their heads, I’m not a huge fan of physical embodiment. I like the taste of food, but I could do without digestion and excretion. I like dreams, but — come on, body, eight hours of sleep a day? As a teenager, my fantasies were mostly about being a brain in a tall, androgynous, bodily-function-less body. (Yup. Says a lot about me.)
So, I get the squeamishness. I’m up there with the squeamishest of squeamishers. And yet, I see that it’s a problem. Our culture is, at least in part, about rejecting ourselves as physical beings. We generate mounds of non-biodegradable rubbish because we’d simply rather not deal with our own messes. Years ago, scraping off and cleaning cloth diapers was part of the deal of having a child. Soaking and washing bloody cloth pads was a necessary component of being a female homo sapiens of reproductive years. Now we have diaper genies, disposable ultra-thins with wings, flush toilets, and automated litter boxes so you don’t have to handle your cat’s [odor absorbing substance covered] waste from the safe distance of a scoop. We’ve got squeamishness down to an art.
And even avid greenies avoid doing environmentally responsible things out of squeamishness. Some people hesitate to line dry because they don’t want other people to see that they secretly wear pirate-print boxers. Others don’t compost because they have no outdoor space and can’t face the thought of vermicomposting in their kitchens. Most people (myself included) would give up their flush toilets over their cold, dead bodies, even though ‘humanure‘ has a long and illustrious history of being an effective fertilizer. (So much for the argument that animal agriculture is a necessary component of healthy soil!) And after death? We want to be embalmed so we can look good for the wake, and to be buried in airtight steel coffins so we won’t go all mushy and smelly. (Sorry — it’s basically unavoidable, short of mummification.)
The problem with our squeamishness is that it’s kind of killing the planet. Not singlehandedly, but in our plastic-loving disposable attitude, our conviction that we are somehow above having to deal with the messes we make as biological beings – surely enough.
It’s not easy getting over a lifetime of squeamishness, I’ll give you that. If it were, I’d already have worms in my kitchen and be watering my tomatoes with the soaking water from my cloth pads. As a recovering squeamisher, I’ll get there eventually. However, it’s a good first step just to realize that being responsible for our own crap (literally and figuratively) is the price of admission for being alive, and refusing to pay it now means that we’ll pay it tenfold later.