I Have Bad Breath, And You Don’t Smell So Good Yourself: A Post About Death
Have you noticed how sensitive to smells we are? How bad breath, for instance, is just so unignorable? Why is that? Or how about farts? Themselves, they are are a natural byproduct of both the digestive process, and the air we swallow while eating (or sleeping). Now digestion is an interesting thing: it is the breakdown of the food we eat into its nutritive components. Our bodies require fuel–air, water, food–to carry out the essential metabolic processes which keep them alive. Mechanical digestion begins in the mouth, where mastication (chewing) takes place. Salivary amylase begins the breakdown of starches. Protein digestion begins in the stomach with the release of gastric juices (nutrients are absorbed in our small intestines). Essentially, digestion is a form of decay. Foods are broken down into their component parts, which our bodies then absorb to build our cells.
The natural byproducts (besides both urine and feces) of digestion are often the gas of both burps (air and/or other gases we swallow), and farts. Not to mention halitosis (bad breath), which can be caused by the foods we eat and/or the presence of bacteria in our mouths. All of this is perfectly natural. Yet from a young age, we are often very uncomfortable with, or deeply offended by, these perfectly natural things.
Why is this?
I contend that on an instinctual level it reminds of something; namely, that we are dying. Our bodies, whether through bad breath, burps, farts, the smell of sweaty arm pits, defecation, etc., are constantly reminding us of our impending demise. Else why do these oh-so-natural processes often spark such revulsion and/or discomfiture in us? We don’t shower so much to clean up as to (for a time) wash off the offensive stench of decay which clings so readily to our bodies. We begin dying before we are even born. The byproducts of fetal digestion and cell devision are stored in our colons as meconium (the first poop). This process never stops until we breathe our last. And the bacteria which inhabit our guts, kept in check by living metabolic processes, have a field day after we expire.
This is entropy. Things wind down. “Things fall apart,” as Yeats said. “The center cannot hold.”
We were not originally made this way. Our forebears were not made to die, but chose death anyway. This is, as the Scripture declares, the legacy of the first Adam. Sin entered the world, and through sin, death. This is why, deep, deep down in our inmost beings these reminders of death offend us so:
Because we know were made for more; indeed were once more. We know that our bodies, essential as they are to life as we know it, are not our true selves. Our true selves are soul and spirit–that deep place within us where we commune with God. And someday–sooner or later–this inmost self shall return to God from whence it came.
“Death, thou shalt die.” In the meantime, pass the Beano.