What your poop says about the advice you read online

Can you imagine Hemingway bending over the toilet with a check-list in his hand?

 |  Humble Submissions  |  5-minute read |   05-02-2016
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My eyes are creeping open. I squint at the clock. It is one hour too late to get a morning workout. I have to be at work soon, but I'm not late for it. I need to shower, find pants and a shirt, eat something reasonable. But first, I pick up my phone and let the white light wash across my face. I bathe in information before I bathe in water.

Someone has shared something by a gentlemen with the unlikely name of David Avocado Wolfe. It's called "What your poop is saying about your health?" I read it with morbid fascination. It describes seven types of poop, of which two are normal and acceptable. There are colours and textures, and combinations which work, and others which don't. It ends with the very helpful 12 tips to get the perfect poop. A lot of it is about what you eat - which seems fair enough. Some of it is about managing your stress. The page says smugly - "My challenge for you is to get into the habit of observing your daily dump."I'm looking at it. It's brown.

David also wants to tell you how to sleep for your well being. If you sleep on your left side, it's better for you. That's the dominant lymphatic side; it helps remove toxins from your system.

Listen, David, I don't sleep too good. I sleep poorly, usually too little. I'm tense and anxious about the things I have to deal with. Sometimes I get up in the middle of the night to take a whiz. When I do sleep, sometimes I have nightmares, and very real dreams where I'm looking for something, or I have a quest I have to complete. Sometimes I have hangovers - perhaps I exceeded the one glass of wine that is great for my heart. I can't always sleep, leave alone sleep on my left.

Let me check out the newspaper. A mob in Bangalore strips and assaults a Tanzanian woman, and burns her car, for being in the vicinity of a traffic accident. An avalanche kills ten soldiers on the most militarized glacier in the world. Dalit anger over mistreatment in education continues to rumble. The civil rights battle of our generation has been put before a constitutional law bench - the right to live with dignity is at stake.

Hey David! I'm here man, I'm eating spirulina and chia and flax and amaranth. I haven't seen a sugar cube in two years. I'm sleeping on my left side. I'm examining the plasticity of my turds, wondering if I need eat more fibre. I have literally looked straight through my navel into my colon. Are you sure there's nothing more important I could be doing?

This is a solipsism (yoga performing, granola munching) of a very attractive sort, accessible to a miniscule elite slice of our society. Look at our goddamn virtue! It is practically inducing halos. This is the paranoid dominance of advice culture. It's everywhere, murmuring, wisely that this is ground zero of the change, this is the first day of the rest of your life, you can have real, honest to god core strength.

If there's one thing more mephitic than being told to drink warm water with lemon every morning, it's Berlin - Art Parasites. Now, for free, you can be subjected to the overwrought description of the tortuous unwinding of somebody else's heartbreak, together with stunningly mediocre art. This could all be yours, in the morning, at your desk.

I'm starting to worry that the more people are telling you to focus on emotional exploration and mindfulness, the more there's something you could be thinking about. It has even struck me to wonder if there's more to life than emotional well being and a really strong core? 

Another link - apparently "it's hip to be sober", and the residents of an island off the coast of America are embracing a "wide range of sober, mindful, after-work activities". These include drink-free, drug-free, pre-work morning raves. You meet people, get a workout, interact blissfully and mindfully. And then you can change into your work clothes and go to the office. I don't think I've heard of anything more pathetic sounding in my whole life. Can you imagine flirting, sober, at 8am? Kill me now.

Don't get me wrong. I love exercise, and working out and sports. I like eating reasonably clean. Health is beautiful, and the more we know about it, the higher our quality of life can get. I'm just worried that the culture machine is giving us lotus flowers to eat. Maybe the path to perdition is lined with cups of green tea and paved with yoga mats. Maybe there's a point where we should just relax, figure out our priorities and stop taking advice from the yogis of Manhattan.

Human society has never focused on wellness and longevity the way it does now. Is the point of being human to be human for as long as possible? Or is it to have the best of what it is to be human? What about art? Can you imagine Hemingway bending over the toilet with a checklist in his hand? Can you see Caravaggio waving away the pitcher of wine - "None for me, thanks, I'm practising mindfulness". I'm also concerned we're being distracted from very real battles we should be fighting. We're being distracted from the great work we should be doing. If we're engaged in those battles, and we're contributing meaningfully to the world, a few drinks can't be the worst thing ever to take the edge off.

If you're stressed, perhaps it's because something is actually riding on what you do.


Satyajit Sarna Satyajit Sarna @satyajitsarna

The writer is a lawyer and writer based in Delhi. He is the author of The Angel's Share (HarperCollins, 2012). He blogs at satyajitsarna.blogspot.com.

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