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The Holy Shit

Every day we commit a sacrilegious gesture of death.
The Holy Shit
Friedensreich Hundertwasser designed this public toilet for the town Kawakawa, New Zealand.
Photo by Daniel Pietzsch via flickr.

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Audio version read by George Atherton – Right-click to download

A person should be buried only half a meter, or two feet, below the surface. Then a tree should be planted there. He should be buried in a coffin that decays so that when you plant a tree on top the tree will take something out of his substance and change it into tree-substance. When you visit the grave you don’t visit a dead man, you visit a living being who was just transformed into a tree. You say, “This is my grandfather, the tree is growing well, fantastic.” You can develop a beautiful forest that will be more beautiful than a normal forest because the trees will have their roots in graves. It will be a park, a place for pleasure, a place to live, even a place to hunt.

It took millions of years for vegetation to cover the sludge and toxic substances with a layer of humus, a layer of vegetation and a layer of oxygen, so that humans can live on earth.

And now ungrateful humans are bringing the sludge and toxic substances – which have been covered with tedious cosmic effort – back up to the surface.

In this way, through the misdeeds of the irresponsible human species, the end of the world is becoming the beginning of all time. We are committing suicide. Our cities are carcinomas.

We don’t eat what grows near us – we import food from far away, from Africa, America, China and New Zealand.

We don’t keep our shit. Our rubbish, our waste is flushed far away. We are poisoning rivers, lakes and oceans with it, or we transport it to complicated and expensive purification plants, or more rarely to centralized composting facilities. In other cases, our waste is destroyed. The shit never returns to our fields, and neither does it return to where our food comes from.

The cycle by which food becomes shit is functioning.
The cycle by which shit becomes food is broken.

Whenever we flush our toilets, with the conviction that we are performing a hygienic act, we are breaking cosmic laws, because in reality it is a godless act, a sacrilegious gesture of death.

When we go to the toilet, lock it from the inside and flush away our shit, we are trying to put an end to something. What are we ashamed of? What are we afraid of? We repress what happens to our shit, just as we repress death. The toilet hole appears to us like the gate to death; we try to get away from it as quickly as possible, forget as quickly as possible about the rottenness and decay. However, it is exactly the opposite! It is with shit that life first begins.

Friedensreich Hundertwasser was an Austrian painter and architect known for his fresh and stunning insights.

25 comments on the article “The Holy Shit”

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Anonymous

People think the population of Aotearoa (NZ) is four million, but it exports most of the food it grows, so the population is actually the number of people it feeds, which is maybe ten times four, and none of the shit from thirty six million of that population ever reaches the shores of Aotearoa.... so we have to pour on the synthetic superphosphate like crazy.

Anonymous

You have one of two ways to go with this..

There is a simple reason that human shit isn't used to fertilise food crops it spreads disease.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Night_soil

In peoples minds shit=death for that reason.

We find it disgusting as a product of evolution, its built into us to be repulsed by it and our natural reaction to get away from it as soon as its left our bodies, is the correct one.

Shit is less than worthless not only because it contains all of the harmful chemicals that our bodies can't break down but because having it around and putting it into the food chain can and will lead to the spreading of disease.

Humans have spent thousands of years trying to separate themselves from immediate harm, we built weapons, shelter and art to defend our selves from wild animals, cold weather and the human condition. Our treatment of shit is part of the same story.

I agree that something needs to be done about the crazy amount of excrement currently finding its way into our seas and rivers, but you don't seem to be providing any real world answers here, as a result this article comes across a rant, pointing out an obvious problem but leading to no solution.

Your promoting using human shit to fertilise food as a way for society to move forward. That if we get more closely in touch with our dead and our own shit, then the spreading disease, (which is why we dispose of both so clinically) is all part of a more full life, that we are currently ignoring.

By the same logic i'd ask that if you ever find a lump while in the shower. Don't go to a doctor to get it removed, to "try to get away from it as quickly as possible, forget as quickly as possible about the rottenness and decay" As your first thoughts might be.

Like the treatment of sewage, your medical treatment will only result in harsh chemicals being released into the environment and your own immediate well being, it would be "breaking cosmic laws" by flushing it away.

Instead Embrace the lump, your body created it from you consuming other life forms and in your death, other life forms will survive.... the broken circle will be complete.

Your only other option would be to admit that you made this bold statement without any thought to the practicality of the it.

Tough call.

Anonymous

You have one of two ways to go with this..

There is a simple reason that human shit isn't used to fertilise food crops it spreads disease.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Night_soil

In peoples minds shit=death for that reason.

We find it disgusting as a product of evolution, its built into us to be repulsed by it and our natural reaction to get away from it as soon as its left our bodies, is the correct one.

Shit is less than worthless not only because it contains all of the harmful chemicals that our bodies can't break down but because having it around and putting it into the food chain can and will lead to the spreading of disease.

Humans have spent thousands of years trying to separate themselves from immediate harm, we built weapons, shelter and art to defend our selves from wild animals, cold weather and the human condition. Our treatment of shit is part of the same story.

I agree that something needs to be done about the crazy amount of excrement currently finding its way into our seas and rivers, but you don't seem to be providing any real world answers here, as a result this article comes across a rant, pointing out an obvious problem but leading to no solution.

Your promoting using human shit to fertilise food as a way for society to move forward. That if we get more closely in touch with our dead and our own shit, then the spreading disease, (which is why we dispose of both so clinically) is all part of a more full life, that we are currently ignoring.

By the same logic i'd ask that if you ever find a lump while in the shower. Don't go to a doctor to get it removed, to "try to get away from it as quickly as possible, forget as quickly as possible about the rottenness and decay" As your first thoughts might be.

Like the treatment of sewage, your medical treatment will only result in harsh chemicals being released into the environment and your own immediate well being, it would be "breaking cosmic laws" by flushing it away.

Instead Embrace the lump, your body created it from you consuming other life forms and in your death, other life forms will survive.... the broken circle will be complete.

Your only other option would be to admit that you made this bold statement without any thought to the practicality of the it.

Tough call.

BD

Just FYI...this fella has been dead a while.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friedensreich_Hundertwasser

So while you make some great points, alas, I sincerely doubt that the author will get to see them--or respond. :-)

BD

Just FYI...this fella has been dead a while.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friedensreich_Hundertwasser

So while you make some great points, alas, I sincerely doubt that the author will get to see them--or respond. :-)

PepperReed

I find this article interesting (particularly the tree headstones), but haven't you ever seen (or smelled!) a Honey Wagon?

The majority of human waste (here in the Midwest USA urban areas) heads to a treatment facility where its screened, the liquids are evaporated off and the remaining 'sludge' is pumped into a holding tank, which is seasonally taken by the aforementioned Honey Wagon and sprayed on fields. So, what you're talking about is already happening on a regular basis here. My husband worked at a local wastewater treatment plant while in grad school, so this is legit practice.

I do have concerns about the amount of pharma in our stool that is getting passed into our food, and of course these are HUGE farms that pump sludge onto food, which is another problem as well. Plus, the fact that we waste Clean Water (instead of gray) for human waste disposal. If you haven't read 'How to shit in the woods' I recommend it.

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