Vote Charlie!

The golden stool

Posted at age 28.
Edited .

Everyone who spends a week in Black Rock City develops a relationship with the porta potties. Lack of standard toilets is not normally a highlight of outdoor festivals, and thus it is easy to react negatively to this plight. With experience you recognize there are other ways to think, and as with many relationships, truth manifests through highs and lows; moments of relief, disdain, and sometimes pain; feelings of prison, and other times of sanctuary. Smelling freedom requires first letting go – of yourself, everything you hold on to, everything inside you. Keeping it all bottled up only leads to pain. Your satisfaction is commensurate with your contribution.


People love to express themselves in the toilets.

Remembering this can be tough, even moreso since most of us take for granted convenient facilities for relieving ourselves. It seems like a cruel joke you have to bundle up, put on a mask and goggles and shoes, leave the safety of your tent and hop on a bike to go find the nearest bank of porta potties – just because your body suddenly decided you have to go. In those moments it can be easy to resent your body and yourself, for it was you who chose to eat and drink, and now you must pay the price. It can be easy to curse the heavens for stirring a dust storm or even pouring rain at any moment. It can be easy to get angry with your fellow citizens for making you wait during your moment of need, or angry with the waste removal staff for forcing you to go someplace else.


If you try to see how everyone involved, yourself included, is just struggling to get along in this world, you might find positive thoughts arising with the scents in those saunas. You might reframe this as a small part of your new, thrilling, apocalyptic universe. Certainly you feel the sheer relief of making a deposit. You might consider how that deposit will grow, how it is a contribution to something greater, perhaps through saving water by not flushing. You might reflect on times you have been uncomfortable in restrooms despite their modern convenience, for the presence of others made you self conscious and scared to reveal yourself. But here, nobody knows where you are, and even if they did, they would understand. You might hope to bring these insights back to your life in the default world. For that, you need some tools.


The sign reads, "Golden Stool Stools". It's been a while since I squatted.

You can start by challenging your assumptions. “I need to take a shit” is a normal thought, a part of everyday life. You could be forgiven for associating great relief with the idea of taking. But what are you really taking, and from whom or where are you taking it? Certainly you are not taking a shit from the toilet. Upon examination, you realize you have had it backward all your life. Those most satisfying moments were realized because you chose to interrupt the trance of petty routine, and you actually gave a shit.


Be neat! Plant your ass on the seat! Or at the very least... If you hover, raise the cover! RobbiDobbs

If you pay attention, life will change. Attention is an investment that connects and bonds. Paying attention proves you care, and attention is often noticed and rewarded in kind. But there need not be any other party to notice to make the investment worthwhile. It is inherently satisfying. Pay attention, and you can see beauty everywhere, even while you give a shit in a porta potty.


I really enjoyed the porta potties with added flowers. I hope to do something similar next year!

Entries in this series

  1. Unpacking Burning Man 2016
  2. The journey ‘home’
  3. Social apprehension
  4. Race prep by day drinking
  5. Third ultramarathon fastest yet
  6. Feeling astonished, validated, home
  7. Recovering, welcoming
  8. Lost at day, seeking friends
  9. Lost at night, seeking joy
  10. Joy, right at home
  11. Man burns, desert chills
  12. The Temple
  13. Return to default world
  14. Bonus: The golden stool