A passage I learned recently in the Talmud Chagiga offered some insight. It notes that people resemble angels in three ways and animals in three others. Like animals, we procreate, we die, and lastly, we go to the bathroom.
Why does the Talmud see fit to make this comparison? To knock us down a peg – “Don’t think too highly of yourselves – you eliminate just like animals”? From the fact that our resemblance to animals is taught alongside angels, there must be something more.
Going to the bathroom is nothing more than ridding ourselves of harmful toxins. If we could eat pure nutrition with no admixture of waste, I guess we would. (In fact, that’s how it was for Adam and Eve and later the generation of Jews who ate manna in the desert – food was completely absorbed in the body without need for the bathroom).
Alas, in the world we live in now, G-d saw fit to make a system in which health and vitality coexist alongside toxins. Every moment we’re alive, we carry around in our person toxic stuff. Would we say we’re contaminated? Does it reflect poorly on us? Um – no. We feel the effects of digestion and all its related processes, but we’re not degraded by it. It’s part and parcel of being a human maintaining his health.
Our experience of thinking is not so different. Partaking of life involves healthy, nutritious thoughts and the presence of toxic stuff. If I could figure out how to only experience uplifting thinking, I would. Alas, it seems G-d saw fit to design humans such that we partake of all kinds of thought. And He let us know that as with digestion, the toxic stuff passes. It’s really not personal.
I am free to experience the confusion or anger, or even the judgment I might have (“Can you do better?”). I’m not contaminated – I’m just a toxin processor.