I had a dream the other night that the sphincter was the primordial muscle of the body, a muscular version of the trilobite. In my dream there was literally a sphincter inching its way around in the primordial slime – without a body. It was one of the dreams, that I often get just before waking, which remain extremely vivid as I surface into the day. In this instance I surfaced in laughter at the ridiculous nature of the image.
However, on reflection I began to think that it is, perhaps, rather apt. The sphincter is the muscle that allows the world to pass through and, in concert with the enteric nervous system, regulates the rhythm of it’s passing. This ability to selectively absorb and excrete elements of the world, to incorporate and define substance as self and not-self is as fundamental to microbes and worms as it is to human bodies.
In her book Psychosomatic: Feminism and the Neurological Body, Elizabeth Wilson develops an argument regarding the fundamental relation of gut physiology to the psychology of one’s relationship to others.
“Maybe ingestion and digestion aren’t just metaphors for internalization; perhaps they are ‘actual’ mechanisms for relating to others. That is, perhaps gut pathology doesn’t stand in for ideational disruption, but is another forms of perturbed relation to others – a form that is enacted enterologically. … The struggle to eat (or to stop eating) when depressed is a struggle to mediate difficult, attenuated, or lost relations to others and to the outside world.” (Wilson, 2004, p45)
Now I wasn’t going to mention it, but the image of the primordial sphincter in my dream segued into a moment in which I was reading a report that heralded anal teledildonics as the next global communications revolution. A case of taking the back way around in the race to re-introduce gut level communication to an increasingly mediated market of interpersonal relationships?… I’m sure Freud would have a field day.