> In Japan, which was much more urbanized than China, people paid less rent when they left their landlord better quality excrements. King describes loads of human dung taken from Tokyo and Yokahama “carried on the shoulders of men and on the backs of animals, but most commonly on strong carts drawn by men, bearing six to ten tightly covered wooden containers holding forty, sixty or more pounds each”. On the Japanese countryside, it was not unusual to see signs that invited passers-by to please answer nature’s call on site. The farmers used the product to manure their fields.
This means that anyone who takes part in a programme for de-passivizing themselves, and crosses from the side of the merely formed to that of the forming, becomes a subject. The whole complex known as ethics comes from the gesture of conversion to ability. Conversion is not the transition from one belief system to another; the original conversion takes place as an exit from the passivist mode of existence in coincidence with the entrance into the activating mode. It is in the nature of the matter that this activation and the avowal of the practising life come to the same thing.
To continue the metaphor of stepping out of the river, humans who have accepted the task of explicating the inertia within them find themselves forced by the course of experience to switch to the other side of their self-findings no fewer than three times. By noting how passions are working within them, they understand that they must reach the other side of passion so that they do not simply suffer from the passions, but rather become skilled at suffering. By noting to what extent they are controlled by habits, they immediately understand that it would be decisive to cross to the other side of habits so that they are not simply possessed by them, but rather possess them. And by noting that their psyche is populated with confused notions, it occurs to them how desirable it would be to arrive at the other side of the tumult of notions so that they are not simply visited by muddled thoughts, but develop logically stable ideas. Thought begins when the charade of associations ends that is currently being described as a competition of ‘memes’ for free capacities in the neocortex. This threefold change of sides forms the ethical programme in all activities grouped together by Plato under the invented term ‘philosophy’.
Just as philosophers after Plato would later portray themselves as friends of wisdom, gymnasts and philosophers presented themselves long before them as friends of the toil that makes men into men, and as lovers of the long, hard labour placed between them and victory by the gods. The Cynics in particular later claimed Hercules as their ancestor in order to underpin their thesis that they alone, the total ascetics among philosophers, were true athletes, while the sportsmen were no more than decadent musclemen chasing after ephemeral successes, without any notion of solid virtue or cosmos-suited reason.