I love pissing. Anyone who doesn't is either a liar, a prude, or both. There's just nothing quite so satisfying as letting go of a pent-up lake in the form of a stream. True, there is a similar sensation of what we might term “the pleasure of relief” to be had with other acts of excretion - but pissing is by far the least caught up in other physical and/or emotional hindrances, of the kind you'd associate with shitting (mess), blowing your nose (illness), vomiting (illness and mess), spitting (public nuisance) or ejaculation (shame)[1]. In short, pissing is good, and when it’s long it’s even better.

But there’s always someone out there to ruin the fun for everyone else, isn’t there? There is. And so it is in the case of pissing. No, I’m not talking here about sexual pissing; I’ve no gripe with what people, and Donald Trump, do in the privacy of their own hotel rooms. No: I’m talking about the fact that urine is the only one of the aforementioned fluids that, to my knowledge, has been adopted by fringe health groups as a source of personal enrichment and vitality if you let it back in yourself. There are, for example, as far as I know anyway, no Facebook groups about eating your own vomit – at least none that are not also groups about dogs. Piss, however? Everywhere. The so-called “natural cure” seems to be spreading like a natural disease. Yum yum.

The basic tenet of urine therapy is that the human body is nature’s best filter and that as a result the piss we pass is fizzing with health. This would be all very well and good except it operates under the misapprehension that this is how filters work. In the minds of these piss-brains, the body is like a juicer and all the fruits we put in come out through our genitals as a scrumptious juice. Except that it isn’t, is it? If the piss was the magic elixir, what do you think would get left behind in the body? That’s right, the rubbish. The dregs. And why would a body keep the stuff it doesn’t need? And why would – anyway, do I really need to explain this to you? Probably not. Unless you are one of those people who rubs piss inside their eyeballs, in which case send me a message and I’ll be happy to talk to you for hours about how to use even the most basic of Internet search functions, I beg of you.

These proponents of Urine Therapy, these advocates of literally taking human waste and putting it in and on your own body, seem to be gaining momentum in the same way that people who preach about anti-vaccination and flat earth do. And while it might be amusing to laugh at the groups of people who ingest spurious misinformation and also sometimes urine, at the end of the day, it’s the same logical – or illogical – processes that lead to people adopting more dangerous ideologies; bigotry and the like. After all, you can’t spell “prejudice” without almost all of the letters of “pee juice”. And while it might also be amusing to laugh at those people being led to hate and intolerance through ignorance and fear, it is also a little bit sad, and it would be good to understand why. So let’s walk through it.

The brain is designed to grab on to what’s easiest for it to continue and survive. As an example, language tends to evolve in a way that makes it easier to communicate – quite literally in the case of certain pronunciation changes that occur because the muscle of the tongue seeks out the least amount of movements it needs to make in order to utter a sound. Think “going to” becoming “gonna”, “February” becoming “Febbry” or “knife”, which used to be pronounced with the “k”. Or think of the case of words and phrases that pop up more frequently and therefore take up less mental capacity to parse. It’s almost like a self-sustaining process whereby the frequency of use determines the frequency of use. We say “food” and “magic” more often than “comestibles” and “prestidigitation” simply because we say the former two words more often than the latter two. And we do so unthinkingly; ‘“How are you going?” “Fine”’ is an exchange that occurs unaltered many times daily to the extent that we now utter it as a matter of habit. It’s also how slang proliferates but then also dies out: it begins through repeated input and output and we hear it so much it infiltrates our consciousness, and then after a while it hits a decline, and the less it gets used by others the less we want to use it ourselves, and so on until gradually it’s dissolved from existence. Yeet. Same with all of our language use, really. We learn to express certain things in certain ways because they simply take less effort to think or say. Lazy? Possibly. Efficient? More likely. Remember, we’re trying to survive here.

Much like these words, concepts you’re constantly exposed to grip onto the neural pathways in your brain and become the default pathways that your brain chooses – and, in turn, they become normalised. They become what you believe, and, in turn, what you live. We’re hardwired for survival and so brains are admirably adept at adapting; once the brain finds itself in a situation where it is at least relatively stable and without any threats, it will continue repeating the patterns it has taken to get to that place, and will establish within itself a new status quo. That’s why it takes so long to unlearn trauma and acquired behaviours and coping strategies, for example; they’re ways the brain has taught itself to protect you, and they exist well after those behaviours are needed, well after the threat itself is gone. Chances are they’re no longer useful, and yet you keep on using them because it’s what you know, and because at one point it was a matter of life and death, even if it isn’t anymore. You have forgotten what specific patterns led you to the stage you’re at now, but they’re now so entrenched in your existence that they become your life.

Taking one step back, we find that these same above mechanisms inform the way we create and stick with opinions and beliefs, and, more widely, entire worldviews. When we’re told something, and told it repeatedly, we’ll start to believe its legitimacy unless there’s some evidence to the contrary. It then gets to a stage when even if there is evidence to the contrary, you are so deeply embedded in what your brain has decided is reality that the evidence appears to be false and so you reject it. You have forgotten the patterns, but they are your life. And it’s especially true from childhood, when we’re still forming our grasp on the world, and when we unquestioningly accept something as true unless explicitly told otherwise. You’ll see that when kids “overgenerate” certain grammatical forms like plurals (“sheeps”) or past tenses (“I swimmed”); they find a pattern and stick with it until they’re told that’s not the case. So too with more abstract notions and social norms. We’re born naked and we’re taught to put on clothes.

As children we’re almost in the most vulnerable stage we can be, and consequently our brain is working overtime to survive and to grab any mechanism it can to convince itself that it is okay. It’s why so many of our personality traits are imprinted in these formative years; when we’re at risk is when our brains learn to live the most. It should be noted here that imprinting is never a one-way system; it necessarily has to come from someone or something, even if it may or may not be a conscious process – for either party. We learn to live from those around us and we absorb their knowledge, their views and their behaviours. And here we see the way social systems and ideologies flourish [2], the way they’re upheld intergenerationally, through family and community: those units that are most connected with protection and survival. From the way we sit and sleep to the way we think about other people to religions, philosophies and politics; so much of it comes down to things we pick up from living with others and explicitly or implicitly being taught how to do so. There’s a whole other treatise to be written about social constructs, so I won’t dwell on it too much more, although it goes to the very heart of what this post is about.

Despite their omnipresence, though, how much of these thoughts and practices do we ever question? How many times do we stop and ask, “Is this true? Is this thing I’ve been doing and saying my whole life inherently true, or even the only way to do and say it? Where did it come from? Where did it go? Is this actually Cotton-Eye Joe?”? We’ve already seen that it’s difficult to do so because of the way our brains operate and the way we’re designed to just take on board what we’ve been given and roll with it until it doesn’t work and even then to keep rolling with it because your internal reality is usually taken to be correct rather than the external reality which is so filtered by your internal reality that it’s hard to know what is or isn’t real anymore.

It’s so hard! Particularly now when information comes to us in a far greater and faster capacity than ever before through widespread technological advances. We simply don’t have time to stop and analyse; we just attach our realities to those around us and just try to survive. And so that’s why we increasingly see ideological bubbles, the triumphs of “truthiness”, and the thriving of fear-fuelled perceptions of the world. Especially when these concepts are rooted in what is, at their core, an appeal to self-preservation. That’s why now, when human progress is meant to be at such an advanced stage, when knowledge is available within milliseconds, we are getting more and more climate change deniers, Holocaust deniers, fascists, anti-vaxxers, flat earthers and, who could forget (though we rather would), people who treat maladies with their own piss.

Here’s the thing. Personally, I find the above pretty fascinating – most specifically, the fact that it was all written without any research whatsoever and was essentially cobbled together from vague thoughts I’ve had over the years. I literally don’t know if any of it is at all valid. But it’s convincing and plausible – and, frankly, that’s another reason not to trust it. And yes, it’s more or less grounded in reality and touches on things you may have experienced and thought and felt, but none of it was fact-checked and none of it was taken from any proper sources, just stuff I’ve heard somewhere and connected some dots. None of it has any proper merit, even if it may well be true – which it probably is, because, let’s face it, I’m a genius [3].

All I’m saying is: if you hear something, maybe take a minute or two to step back and think critically about it. Even if it’s something you’ve heard every day of your life. Who taught you? Why? What does it really mean? Are you literally pouring urine onto open wounds? If so, why? Or are you perhaps metaphorically pouring urine onto open wounds? If you stop and ask yourself questions like that, maybe you’ll be able to travel through life with a more open mind. Maybe then you’ll avoid situations where you think literally pouring urine onto open wounds is in any way a good idea. And maybe if more people did that, we’d have a bit more tolerance and understanding in the world.

Or maybe I’m just pissing in the wind.

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[1] I have deliberately omitted farting, as this is a gas and not a liquid. When it is a liquid, this further proves my point of mess. However, as a gas, farting is also good ­– perhaps even as good as pissing. It would have also made for a fitting “wind” pun at the end. Please imagine your own.

[2] In a way, words and concepts have their own sort of meta-version of survival. As an aside, the film Pontypool (2006) explores when words and language turn into a zombie virus and it’s a fascinating and terrifying metaphor.

[3] Year 10 Spelling Champion (2006) – my winning word was “perestroika” [4].

[4] This fact is also a half-truth; I won because my last remaining opponent couldn’t spell “gypsophila”, which is a kind of flower and not an attraction to Romany people. As I type this, I realise that when the word was presented, it was pronounced as “gypsophilia”, which is an unfortunate turn of events in a spelling contest. What’s ironic now is that my spellchecker is underlining the word “gypsophila”, even though that’s the correct spelling, although “correct spelling” is also a social construct designed to standardise communication and I should probably use the term “accepted spelling”. All this from a flower!