The Cosmological In-Difference of When Shit Happens

Thoughts about the ‘event’ and shit going on around the world have passed through my mind quite a lot lately. Inspired by Christian’s comment about D&G being “the ultimate style of the Secret Conspiracy” I have decided talk some shit.

One of the funniest bits of Forrest Gump was the scene where the guy invents the SHIT HAPPENS bumper sticker.

Bumper sticker maker: You just ran through a big pile of dog
shit. Forrest Gump: It happens.Bumper sticker maker: What? shit?

What? shit?Forrest Gump: Sometimes.

I have no idea about the history of the saying ‘Shit Happens’ beyond the Gumpoverse, but it is a very interesting little phrase. Shitting is the incorporeal event of our digestive system. When do you start shitting? When the turtle pops its head out? When your tummy goes ‘womble’ after that curry? On shitting:

Finally, all of the digested nutrients are absorbed through the
intestinal walls. The waste products of this process include undigested parts of
the food, known as fiber, and older cells that have been shed from the mucosa.
These materials are propelled into the colon, where they remain, usually for a
day or two, until the feces are expelled by a bowel movement.

You never actually stop shitting, shit just comes out ever now and again. Eating is part of shitting and the bowel does not move. Shit is the part of the world that we make part of who we are for only a short period of time and then it passes right on through. It is therefore impossible to shit yourself, as shit does not belong to you and is of the world. Actually, shit is undoubtedly made from broken stars that have fallen to Earth in a forgotten cosmic fury. When shit happens the cosmos folds itself into us and through us leaving its little faux pas skid marks on our psyche. When shit happens we are reminded that the cosmos cares little for us assemblages of forces and matter. When shit happens shit matters to us so ignore the person who says (in a Mr T. voice), “That shit don’t matter.” Of course the shit matters; it is only that we don’t matter to shit or, rather, for shit we don’t mean shit.

Shit couldn’t be dirty. Firstly because it is inside us. Secondly and more importantly, when it is inside us it is dirt that is not matter out of place, but dirt that is matter exactly in place. That shit is meant to be there, believe me; we are meant to be full of shit. If I wasn’t full of shit it would be scary and I would probably hospitalised with the nurses whispering, “He is scared shitless.” I find it reassuring to think that my shit is meant to be there even though it is not actually part of me. It feels vaguely warm to have the cosmos inside me and I am sure it has something to do with my prostate – the gay sex organ. It is not all Queer as Folk happiness though, sometimes the cosmos gets violent and the illusion of control we have over our shit is lost and that is when shit happens.

The happening of shit is a slow process. From the indescernible molecularised matter that assembles in coagulations of force with certain affective attributes which we consume as food to the passing of various forces through us, in us, and with us. The ideology of shit begins very early in our lives. We are sold the illusio we can control the world – the cosmos – by controlling the shit that passes through us… but now I am spinning some Freudian shit and it stinks. We can control our bodies, but we can’t control the cosmos and it reminds us all the time when we realise some shit is going down. We just hope it goes down where it is meant to so we can flush it into repression as soon as it has passed. Or maybe not?

The happening of shit is not the Event of the Real touching us and which we are forced to bare witness. Instead it is the event of the cosmos folding through us. The cosmos does not belong to our time and the temporal series of shit happening most often than not ignores the human will. When shit happens we feel the rumbles of the cosmos in our bones, well, maybe not, but at least in our tummies – right there, deep down, in the gut. Shit happening is a gut instinct. At the very minimum it is an affective tension between your gut and the toilet. It is experience as anticipation – when you need to shit. The happening of shit is cloaked in social graces as the anticipation of shit is mirrored by social relations that precipitate expectation. Expectation of a place to do some shit and most importantly an expectation of the most forgotten of Latour’s missing masses, toilet paper. In the calculus of shitting’s futurity you want to hope someone packed that toilet paper. You don’t really know if it is going to be a bad shit or some real good shit. You just have to let that shit go, even if you need to force it sometimes.

Shit happens as a disruption to the continuance of the Same. It is only ever the same shit and different smell on the cosmic scale of the happening. If the cosmos was forever the same old shit then Badiou’s critique of Deleuze would hold. Deleuze would be the philosopher of the same old shit – the univocity of the One. However, when shit happens it is in the time of the eternal return of difference, the future. In the future, Deleuze argues, “the event and the act possess a secret coherence which excludes that of the self” (Difference & Repetition 89). Of course, we don’t matter to shit, shit only matters to us. This is why Badiou desparately argues for a fidelity to some shit, to make it matter. Otherwise when shit happens it is an act of (to get really tricky) cosmological in-difference. Deleuze, like Derrida, realises the radical potential of when shit happens. Shit happening is cosmologically sexy, it can fuck some shit up, but that is just the cosmos finding a bedfellow, kind of like the ancient Greek gods used to.

If shit is a fold of the cosmos that passes through us when it happens, the human condition is forever simply to eat shit and die. Yeah, I know it is funny, not funny funny, but kind of weird funny, but at least we get to run around wearing shit eating grins.

11 replies on “The Cosmological In-Difference of When Shit Happens”

  1. You just fought Badiou, just when I was saying to a friend in my blog the same problem. That shit’s fucked up, right there! Its the smartest, most well written book that missed the point I’ve ever read.

    This post’s some good shit, though.

    Although as a snob, I object to your use of ‘funniest’ and ‘Forrest Gump’ in the same sentence.

  2. Maybe I should clarify the Forrest Gump comment. The funny bit isn’t the scene I have quoted from but the one directly after where the ‘truck’ (‘ute’ to you and me) gets cleaned up with the ‘Shit Happens’ sticker proudly placed on its rear. It appeals to me in the same way as some of the literature from the road safety industry makes me giggle. Everyone tries so hard to get their shit together and then it happens.

  3. Oh, and which book are you talking about? _Clamor of Being_? There is a wonderful injunction critical of Badiou in _Think Again_ (2004) specifically the essay 67 – 76 and written by Todd May. That essay needs to be combined for the multiplicative effect with the Jack Reynolds borderlands article linked in my post.

    May is critical of Badiou’s spatialising separation of the virtual/actual couplet from temporality. Deleuze distinguishes “two types of multiplicity. One is represented by space […]. It is a multiplicity of exteriority, of simultaneity, of juxtaposition, of order, of quantitative differentiation, of *difference of degree*; it is a numerical multiplicity, *discontinous and actual*. The other type of multiplicity appears in pure duration: it is an internal multiplicity […] of heterogeneity, of qualitative discrimination, or *difference in kind*; it is a *virtual and continuous* multiplicity that cannot be reduced to numbers.” (Bergsonism 38)

    It relates to Deleuze’s argument to do with futurity, the third synthesis of time. Reynolds summarises succintly what I was getting at in the toilet paper paragraph above:

    “If the future is to genuinely be the future, then it must not be restricted by this kind of identity. Rather, the future is pure difference, or pure temporality, without the identity of subjectivity betrothed to it, and the “esoteric truth” of the idea of the eternal return of difference hence concerns the idea that the eternal return affects only the new, the unanticipatable, or the future as such, and not specific agents or conditions which return (DR 90). Subjectivity anticipates the future, projects toward the future, and thereby deprives the future of its genuine futurity – it makes of the future a ‘future-present’. Again, this is not a genuine exposure to difference, but is a ‘domestication’ of difference and the future.” (para 55)

    In my thesis I am arguing this is exactly what my car enthusiast dudes are doing by modifying their cars. It are not the objects so much that are being modified but the necessary conditions for ritualised events. May doesn’t talk about the future much in his essay, and he probably should have. Pure difference subsists in the virtuality of the future, from Reynolds:

    “For Deleuze, it is only the yet-to-come that returns, and he wants to argue that there is a sense in which one can experience the return of difference (as well as it being a transcendental condition for this temporal triumverate that cannot itself be thought representationally) without that difference being subsumed by identity. […] The eternal return affirms the excessive and the unequal, the multiple and the different. It is about change, or “difference as the origin, which then relates different to different in order to make it return as such” (DR 125) and for him this reversal of the tradition has ethico-political consequences as much as ontological ones. We need to seek encounters in which the anticipatory (and potentially judgmental and moralising) aspects of subjectivity have been stripped away, so as to allow for the new, and for an event […].” (para 56-57)

    The question then emerges, has does the event become disciplined to such a degree that it is so easily commodified and easy to control?

    The streets are an awesome resource for experimenting with the necessary conditions of events. ‘Nothing’ may happen and it normally does.

  4. Last comment before I do myself an injury. To place Badiou’s thinking in a very specific context outlined by May in his essay you should check out Badiou’s response to the many objections raised to his philosophy in _Think Again_. He unfortunately sets himself up to be a righteous knob, especially opening broadside about sciences and the bit about mathematics (why math!?!?!? what a freak!). Anyway:

    “It is not true that in the objective determination of worlds (I call ‘object’ a multiple that is ‘there’ in a determinate world), the relation of objects to other objects of the world is not taken into account. Indeed, the function that assigns to every multiple the degree of intesity of its appearing in fundamentall a *differential* function. It identifies a given mutliple through the systematic comparison of the intensity of its appearing-in-the-world (its being-there) with the intensity of all the other multiples that are co-present in the world. That this comparison is ultimately quantitative (an order of degrees) conforms to everything that science (precisely) tell us: the correlation of worldly phenomena with the purity of their being is *marked* by the necessity of *measurements*. In certain respects it is not false to say […] that everything is number. Is not matter itself reducible to energy-fields of quantifiable intensity?”

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