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Beauty,Spring 2005
Second Web Papers
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Space Mountain

Mo Rhim

Orlando, Florida. Walt Disney World. Space Mountain. One hour down, one left to go. Slowly making it through the line of tourists all waiting for three absolutely thrilling minutes. Cameras around necks, glaring neon fanny packs around waists (or perhaps just my mother's), small children running around ankles and bars as they surprisingly manage to inch forward with a moderate amount of patience, toddlers with no energy perched high on shoulders and jealous just-too-old kids (namely myself) wondering why I could not climb up on my father's shoulders instead of sitting uncomfortably on a cold bar and an old piece of gum that was pointed out a second too late. All of us shuffling forward in the dim lighting of the space command center. Getting closer. The end in sight and your stomach starts to churn. People rocketing off, but not too quickly that you cannot see their shocked and delighted faces. The spaceships slowly cranked back in to docking position. The passengers slowly get out of the bucket seats, smoothing down their electrocuted hair and readjusting their fanny packs. Another inch forward. The tension in my stomach grows, I begin to tremble as I take one, two, three small knees tightly knocked together shuffles with my mother nudging me from behind. No exits in sight.

Between Philadelphia-and-Pittsburgh, PA. I-70. Sitting in the middle of a traffic jam. Sandwiched between two cars front and back and three lanes of cars on either side. Sweat dripping down your forehead, sticking your hair to your face. The seatbelt scratching and pawing at your neck as you squirm in your seat that has suddenly become too small and too confining. A minute passes. Two. Fifteen. The tires may have finally made a complete rotation. Shift again. Try to find some comfortable position to relieve the growing tension knotting your muscles. No exits in sight.

Muncie, IN. Wagner Hall Cafeteria, Ball State University. The SATs. The smell of sharpened number two pencils, fresh erasers, and fear—sometimes in the form of nervous sweating as was the case with the boy next to me—assault my nostrils. Tests being passed out—the answer booklet, the question booklet. Tedious instructions read by a woman with an astoundingly monotone voice, the clock set, pages flipping, and begin. Question 5: C. Question 6: C. Question 7: C. Question 8: It can't be C again. D. The second hand going much faster than it does in Mr. Baker's class. Time running out. Question 20: can't think. The all too familiar tension is coming back. But they never let anyone out. One-tone woman said so at the beginning. Three sections left. No exits in sight.
At Space Mountain while waiting for the most exciting ride in the park, in the middle of traffic stuck in a car after foolishly gulping 24 oz. of water, and here in the three most important hours of my parents' lives and I had to pee.

The sensation of urinating after a long, hard wait is I realize, as are most bodily functions, an unusual topic usually inappropriate for discussion in most situations. It begins with a sense of wonder. However, the sensation of having to pee and then the ultimate release makes me wonder. In the Fisher essay, he addresses these experiences or moments that takes a person out of a "stable self-contained delight" and elicits thought, "a search for explanations and causes; that is, [the experience] elicits science" (Fisher 38). Indeed, Fisher's description of the "Ah!" effect of wonder is true in these scenarios: "unreflective and immediate" (Fisher 40). He goes on to say, "In this, wonder [...] involves a discovery about the limits of the will within experience, a location where we can no longer identity ourselves completely with out powers of choice, action, self-direction, and yet these territories of experience out the will are intimately ourselves, uniquely determined, personal" (Fisher 40). But wonder does not stop there; it drives toward "curiosity, questioning, and the search for explanation, [...] a passage from wonder to thinking" (Fisher 40). These are all statements that could be applied to describe and dissect the experience of having to pee, as crass it may seem.

The moment of realization usually hits suddenly and though it may not be a crippling or punch in the gut effect, there is definitely a physical signal that is immediate. Though the sensation most likely does not lead to discussions and questions using Descartes or Socrates, there certainly are questions being asked. "Can I hold it?" "How am I ever going to hold it?" "Would it be that bad to not hold it?" "How fast can I get to place where it is appropriate not to hold it?" However, in a lonely car ride or in a room alone thinking about urinating in a more in-depth manner, there are certain questions and scientific tracks that are elicited from the experience. What tells me that I have to urinate? How does the signal work? What other factors, scientific or social, tell me when and where I can urinate?

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica Online, the hypothalamus is responsible for the impulses to urinate. There is electrical stimulation in and related to the "anterior part of the hypothalamus that can induce the behavior of expelling or retaining urine and feces." The anatomy, structure and machinery of the human body create stimulation and following responses to the stimulation, whether it be to release or to hold. Muscles, nerve endings, and electric stimuli work together to create a network through the body that results in the final question: "Where is the nearest bathroom?"
However, that question results from something else outside of the body. The experience, and dilemma at times, of having to hold back the natural bodily response and call for urination brings out the social and cultural aspects of the ritual. We are not as humans naturally drawn to the porcelain bowl of a toilet. We are trained to associate right behavior with the use of such a device and are thus induced into certain appropriate actions. Though there are certain signals that warn us and thus allow for control over the process of release, it is the social and cultural norms set that create the path of behavior.

Fisher extends Descartes and Plato to say that "philosophy begins in wonder, continues on at every moment by means of wonder, and ends with explanation that produces, when first heard, a new and equally powerful experience of wonder to that with which it began." Learning about the complex and masterfully built construct of the human body and what it capable of doing, whether it be a beating heart, an expanding lung or a signal that saves your from public ridicule, is a powerful experience when it is first learned. It is powerful, but the final goal of this rather unusual topic is not to simply reveal the wonder of the body, but it is to show the connection between every possible thing or thought. This exploration of the experience and questions around urination is not meant to be necessarily a serious one in the actual matter presented. Rather, this is to demonstrate the connectivity and applicability of these loftier theories, theorems and equations to everything we can possible question or wonder about. There is nothing that cannot be absorbed, understood or explored in the context or through the lens of something that may seem wholly different and disconnected.

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