5 minute Coffee chat with Uncle Reggie: Spitting
与曾叔叔闲聊: 吐口水 (Rebecca 翻译)
Reggiegram: from the worst of spit to the best of spit
曾叔叔短信: 从“最坏”的口水到 “最好”的口水
Part 1 The lowdown on spitting
Saliva! I have had bad experiences with saliva, often considered a lowly body product. Implausibly, saliva literally made me lose one year of my career. Worse, it was saliva from a lowest creature, the cockroach. Please read my real, sadly fun story, “Cockroaches and Humility”, from my Coffee with Uncle Reggie book 1. To be fair, it truly became a humbling blessing to me. A salivary blessing.
No spitting! I grew up in a huge, sophisticated city. At that time, signs were everywhere, jarringly, in big bold English and Chinese words, “No spitting!” On the streets, in parks, in school; literally, there did not seem to be any place that didn’t show the ugly sign. I think the sign was particularly ugly, because it reminded people of the ugliness of spit itself. Even the word sounded ugly, in both languages. Unbelievably, spit indeed seemed to be everywhere also, especially on sidewalks and near gutters. Or was I just imagining that, because the signs were so vivid? There were even some spittoons (do you even know what those are?) at strategic locations, but that assumed that spitting was accurate, which was not necessarily so. Everyone seemed to agree it was a vile, unpleasant habit. Plus, it spread infectious diseases, including the then prevalent and dreaded tuberculosis (TB).
Pollution! In rapidly developing countries, as pollution got worse, especially in dry conditions, big city dwellers often felt that their throats had something dirty in them, especially in their saliva. To some, spitting it out made more sense than swallowing it. I even heard, to my horror that recent arrivals in these big cities, who had never spat before, began to acquire this vile habit.
Don’t think about it! Frankly, most of the time you do not even want to think about your saliva. Especially when you are feeling affectionate, and you might be thinking of planting some kind of affectionate peck somewhere. Thinking of that would really ruin the moment. And during flu season, you don’t really want to think about it too much, since then you can barely shake hands with the friendly church usher who insists on welcoming you with a warm handshake. And definitely, when teenagers share their soft drinks with their beloved friends, they definitely just block out of their minds what is really happening in this transaction, much more than meets the eye.
Part 2 The plot changes
“Fine spitting.” However, there are light moments in spitting. The finest spitting event I ever observed was in the movie, “Titanic”, when the hero tried to demonstrate to his newfound girlfriend how far he could spit into the wind, on the front deck of the great ship. A spit to win a heart, and possibly ours. Sorry, I didn’t think that movie was that great but the spitting was dramatic, ha.
I learned from childhood that spitting contests in the Wild West of America were pretty much a normal way for teenagers and cowboys to show off their manhood. And apparently hearts were indeed won that way. In fact, I understand that the volume that flew out could be so large that it may have generated the strange comment, that a son who looked just like his dad could be the “spitting image” of the dad. A good spit.
我从小就听过这样的传说：在蛮荒的美国西部，年轻人和牛仔通过吐口水比赛，炫耀他们的男子气概。显然，这种方式深得人心。我听说, 可能吐出来的口水实在太多，以至于引发一些奇怪的说法——用『像是从父亲嘴里吐出来的一样』(A spitting image) 来形容儿子跟父亲太像。
Physiology of spit. Amazingly, even the lowly spit has been found to have many physiologic benefits, including digestion of foods right in our mouth, many chemicals and factors protecting us from bacteria and viruses, and even promoting wound healing. Actually, each component of the body seems to be valuable in ways never realized before, and even the lowly spit now has its moment in the sun.
Saliva in healing. Historically, saliva has been used in folk culture, often as an agent of healing, though we have no idea how useful it really was. When the very blind (from birth) man called out to Christ to heal him, Christ, surprisingly, used the very lowly spit, mixed with mud, on the blind man’s eyes, in an initial ritual, before he performed the actual miracle of complete healing. As a symbol of hopelessness to hope, blindness to sight, it was totally dramatic and life-changing for the formerly blind man. Love from the midst of spit.
Modern Eye Missions. Numerous modern-day eye surgery mission teams, driven by this history, have impacted tens of thousands of people worldwide. These mercy missions usually operate in primitive places, without benefit of fancy, expensive operating rooms. No lowly spit is involved, but lowly local basic facilities are used, and the life-changing effects are clearly evident. The organization we helped to start in China, MSI, Medical Services International, which included a key Operation Eye Project to serve blind villagers in rural minority villages, is just one example. An example of love, inspired amazingly by a sight restoration account 2000 years ago.
Spitting as insult. However, when you hear or read about someone spitting directly onto another person, you instantly recognize, that this is the opposite of love. Anywhere in the world, this is a universal insult of the lowest kind. In history, you may remember that when Christ was tortured mercilessly, in addition to the awful lashings, his tormentors also spat all over him. It was an action of utter disdain for him, and for his message of love.
Love and spit. Images or paintings of Christ on the cross are literally all over the world, especially in beautiful cathedrals and historic locations, in Turkey, Israel, Ethiopia, Singapore or Korea. When you look at them, try an exercise of imagining him with spit all over him. How absolutely disgusting that would be, deliberately part of the humiliation and torture of a wonderful and humble teacher, by cruel oppressors. Profound thinkers have taught that in the depths of humiliating misery and suffering of Christ, we actually find lasting love. Think about that. Love from the depths of spit…..
Postscript: from hate to love
In this greatest love story of the world, the lowly spit was not meant as healing agent, but misused to cruelly abuse and humiliate. That humiliation, however, became the focus of dramatically changing the world, literally a healing from blindness into sight, from cruel hate to love.