Friday, November 02, 2018

Bathroom R̶e̶a̶d̶i̶n̶g̶ Ridding

A Jewish friend (her, actually — again!) once asked me if I kept reading materials in the bathroom, and if so, what variety.

“Sure,” I said. “Usually a magazine or two, maybe a comic book.”

“What about serious stuff — literature, philosophy, religion?”

Now the question was high-caliber loaded. Mine was a tight bathroom, with precious little space for learned volumes. But I had two or three ungainly reference books I kept in steady rotation. I didn't think serious-minded readers were likely to regard any of them as especially serious in content, however. “No,” I said, “that's not the sort of thing I keep in the john.”

“Do your people have any sort of prohibition against that sort of thing? Religious material near a toilet?”

I squirmed. The truth is I've encountered no shortage of Evangelical encyclicals parked next to the crapper — never, I hasten to add, at my parents' place. In their house the family bathroom was a fastidiously kept place where occupants got the job done, then courteously tidied and vacated with all possible dispatch for the next in line.

“I never heard anyone inveigle one way or the other on the matter. But my parents maintained literature-free bathrooms. Still do.”

“Well, it's highly taboo with most of my bunch,” said my friend. “A big no-no. Reading while defecating you disrespect the content, and it carries down the line from there, is the thinking.”
"Um...honey, could you call the contractor?"
I will admit this exchange has permanently jarred all further personal meditation on the matter.

On the one hand, I come from a long line of Protestants. The asshole whose movement this was, wasn't just a ruminating-whilst-defecating enthusiast, he was a ruminating-about-defecating enthusiast.

Not that my particular cohort was well-versed in Martin Luther's logorrhea. When they weren't fleeing for their lives, Mennonites built economies based on agrarian practice — you kept busy, in other words, or you died, your laziness probably taking a couple of family members with you. The only moments of sustained reflection occurred in church or in the out-house. Perhaps a tract or two was just the thing to readjust one's line of concern from the duties of tending the soil to matters more heavenly?

On the other hand, the toilet is no place for sustained reflection. You don't want to spend, say, an hour there. That's just not healthy.

Social media posts strike me as the platonic ideal of bathroom reading material — in tone, in content, in provocation . . .

. . . in quality . . . .

To be clear, that is NOT where I consult my social-media feeds. I'm not a germaphobe, but I am also not a complete idiot.

But for those precious readers who have made it this far, here is my modest proposal-to-self — I wonder what would change if I devoted no more daily time to social media than I do to my morning ablutions?

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