“The professor was a small man with a long beard. His office was pleasantly cluttered with books and papers, just the way a professor’s office should look. For a moment, my heart soared – and then I noticed the very modest pile of waste in his hand.
“I threw myself to the ground and wailed in agony. The sickness had returned to infect even the source! The professor gently asked me to explain myself, and I recounted my story as faithfully as I have recounted it to you.
“The professor heard my story with a noble bearing, wise eyes, and a hand holding up his own waste. Of all the things I had seen, this disturbed me most – each half of the picture worked on its own, but put together made a mockery of both.
“The professor let out a weary sigh and slumped back into his chair. ‘I can understand your concern. I certainly never intended for men to start actually relieving themselves into their hands. And I too am worried by the excesses some have been driven to. This morning, I had students begging me to give them some of my waste! All of these merchants of filth, all of these ridiculous inventions for supporting more waste than a person can naturally carry, this should have no place in these hallowed corridors.’
“So I asked him, if he knew how ridiculous this all was, how could he support it by carrying his own waste?
“He said, ‘Because it is having such a good effect! Men are starting to lift their minds above the superstitious belief in prayers to magical, invisible gods! It is a rallying cry for the dignity of man – each fistful of waste is a hand raised in defiance against the old order.’
“’But sir,’ I said, ‘We are talking about waste! Waste!’
Bill clambered up onto a table a howled with fury. “No! No more! I will mince words no longer! This. Is. SHIT! Filthy, stupid shit. Disease-spreading, foul-smelling shit. How will farmers work with only one hand? How will soldiers fight with one hand full of shit and their minds occupied keeping it balanced?
“The merchants are so busy buying and selling useless shit, they have stopped selling things which benefit their fellow man! The priests are so busy fighting over meaningless shit they have no time to minister to the poor. Why, young men and women are so worried about losing their grip on their worthless shit, they won’t even risk making love!
“We’re so busy worrying about other people’s shit – comparing their shit to our shit, gossiping about their fake shit, stacking shit upon shit until we can’t even carry it. We judge a man by how much shit he has instead of by his wisdom or his courage or his deeds. I’m not saying that the old ways were better, but at least we didn’t have to put up with all of this open, unapologetic shit.
“I don’t care if God is a lie or if prayer is wasted effort. I don’t care how much stock everyone else puts into this shit system. I don’t care if I’ll be judged a fool or if you think I’m missing the point. Shitting into your own hand is the stupidest fucking thing I’ve ever heard of!"
Bill’s arms were stretched out, veins bulging and fingers curled into hooks. He sucked in air, chest heaving, and slowly sunk to his knees. He cradled his head in his hands, weeping gently.
Suddenly, his head snapped up and he looked the stunned men around him in the eyes. “Then the professor said, ‘My good man, there is no reason to throw the baby out with the waste water. Certainly, there have been abuses, but my colleagues and I are writing papers which will limit the holding of waste to tasteful limits. We shall do away with arm supports and the buying of others’ waste – from a man according to his ability, in the hand according to his strength!’”
Bill clambered down from the table and returned to the bar. A mug was pressed on him, but he waved it away. “I left the professor’s office after that, though I could hear that he was still talking. I’m not sure if he knows that I left; for all I know, he is still talking. But I was finished listening. I walked out of that college, out of the city, and did not stop until I arrived here.”
“So gentlemen, tell me what you think. Which is better? Which is worse? Which is more filling to the hand and to the soul? The vice of prayer or the vice of shitting into your hand?”