The Big Toe

“The big toe is the most human part of the human body, in the sense that no other element of
this body is as differentiated from the corresponding element of the anthropoid ape
(chimpanzee, gorilla, orangutan, or gibbon). This is due to the fact that the ape is tree
dwelling, whereas man moves on the earth without clinging to branches, having himself
become a tree, in other words raising himself straight up in the air like a tree, and all the more
beautiful for the correctness of his erection. In addition, the function of the human foot
consists in giving a firm foundation to the erection of which man is so proud (the big toe,
ceasing to grasp branches, is applied to the ground on the same plane as the other toes).

But whatever the role played in the erection by his foot, man, who has a light head, in other
words a head raised to the heavens and heavenly things, sees it as spit, on the pretext that he
has this foot in the mud.

Although within the body blood flows in equal quantities from high to low and from low to
high, there is a bias in favor of that which elevates itself, and human life is erroneously seen
as an elevation. The division of the universe into subterranean hell and perfectly pure heaven
is an indelible conception, mud and darkness being the principles of evil as light and celestial
space are the principles of good: with their feet in mud but their heads more or less in light,
men obstinately imagine a tide that will permanently elevate them, never to return, into pure
space. Human life entails, in fact, the rage of seeing oneself as a back and forth movement
from refuse to the ideal, and from the ideal to refuse — a rage that is easily directed against an
organ as base as the foot.”

one can imagine that a toe, always more or less damaged and humiliating, is psychologically analogous to the brutal fall of a man — in other words, to death.

The Big Toe, Georges Bataille

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