Tuesday, January 20, 2009


There is an entire world we do not know and understand, and that is the world that exists in filth, in slime, in dust, in dirt, in squalor.

Squalor. The very meaning of the word is forbidden. We don't even show it in the movies. Carnage, yes, blood, yes, but artfully spattered blood, decorative and symbolic. A smudge across an iconic soldier's face. A carefully timed defiant yell. Where the life, the humanity, the slime, the dirt, the sewage, the feces, the filth, the vomit; where is everything that truly depicts life, in its darkest and ugliest moments?

In our appreciation of beauty, we must not forget the shocking ugliness that can be our lot. We don't understand people who live in shadows, in slime, in dirt; we have an obsessive desire for cleanliness. Even the Metro system here in New York, even the subway stops and the MTA for the most part, is clean in that way. One does not slog through swamps of filth, sleep in grimy clothes, not shower for weeks. One does not learn what it is like to feel like less than a human being...unless, of course, one is in the army or homeless. But there is an entire facet of life we don't understand and won't understand; it's the kind of thing that may appear to resonate, for a moment, in the luminescence of words as they sparkle on a page, but it will never truly resonate until we face our fear of...not the painful, but merely the grotesque, the disgusting, the leper with his oozing sores, suppurating and pus-filled, the drunkard lying in his vomit. The colorful scenes of life we have tried to hide away in our desire to provide a cleanliness that manages to sterilize our world. To be clean is no crime; to try to sterilize life is. Because life is sometimes lived best in these raw, ugly moments, with the blood and pus and dirt and scum and slime.

We are privileged here in America and most of us will never even know how privileged because we'll never venture somewhere that doesn't have a shower, running water, and other methods to retain cleanliness. That's not a sin; it's merely a fact. What it means is that a whole aspect of the human experience has been closed off from us, that we simply do not understand squalor. Ugly, disgusting, filthy, loathesome, suppurating squalor...and yet, that too is part of life. And as we fail to understand that, we also fail to understand other natural functions, such as the mother giving birth; that too becomes covered in our queasy layer of detachment and desire for sterilization, to know as little as possible about the body, its functions, its crevices and nooks and crannies, its glistening layers of tissue, its beautiful construction.

There is beauty even in squalor, even if it be the too-cloying scent of a rotting fruit on its way to decay which simultaneously attracts as well as repels. And certainly, certainly in every natural life function there is a great and terrible beauty, human fluids or feces or other secretions notwithstanding.

Would if we had a world that understood natural functions and did not feel pressed to hide them away....hiding away the slaughter of an animal, the flies feasting on its dead body, subsequent decay...smells we cannot bear because we are no longer used to them, having replaced them with the polluted scent of smoke and artificial spray...it's not that everyone should walk around painted in blood, with dirt on one's hand and nose, but there should be an appreciation for the natural and the way the world works, even if, due to our weak dispositions, we have chosen to hide that ugliness far away.


Anonymous said...

Very interesting piece i definetly know friends of mine that are very overly cleaned to a point of neat freak i myself believe in doing the act of being clean and what makes of it is what makes of it if i smell clean well ok than if not as is in life i have done the best i am able
i would like to wish you luck with regard to going back to college and hoping we can talk later before i leave i used to be much more filthy i believe it to be true if you try things become clearer and cleaner
any case have a great night and people need aware everything and analyze every part of every equation and scenario talk later bb

Ben Rosenfeld

David_on_the_Lake said...

As someone very sensitive to smell..I dont think I would survive more than 5 minute if I were to go back on time to a city 100-200 years ago..

Interestingly enough..its precisely our over sanitization that makes us susceptible to certain bacteria and diseases...

Anonymous said...

David well said it is precisely because of us exerting so much energy that is why we have a large Yetzer Hora to get us every action has an equal and opposite reaction the larger the pull the harder the fall and reaction and Yetzer Hora off it
talk later looking keep posted tl bb

Ben Rosenfeld

הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

What about horses?! We've become so used to unsustainable means of personal transportation that the growth of the horse populations in a city would disgust us. A little over a century ago mid-town Manhattan smelled terribaly from horse excrement, pigs, rotten food and garbage, today the few horses that exist disgust us. Yet all the mounds of excrement that the horses have produced over the millenia don't add up to the pollution of a centuries worth of focie-fuel burning!

I posted about this; it's agreed we've reached our peak oil usage, and considering it's coming scarcity, I'm upset hat natural means of transportation (such as horses) is totally overlooked!

I hate to go on, but I want it to be mentioned that the camel too is an even more reasonable resource, in fact there are many places a camel can go that a desert rover can't! And the cammel doesn't need an ounce of gasoline! and the water that it does need is less and less frequent than a vehicle would need. But as was written here, modern western man is just too discusted for these high forms of sustainable technology!

Anonymous said...

very interesting point how the human gets disgusted over the thought of what an animal goes to the bathroom with that in mind agree with you we need to see how things were and embrace them not throw them under rug
nice point Shlomo have a nice day all and will all talk later take caretlbb

Ben Rosenfeld

Anonymous said...

This is in the vein I've been thinking lately. I'm so glad I stopped upon this, and your idea that our unknowing of the primeval condition affects our opinions towards childbirth is fascinating. Wow.