Thursday, April 17, 2008


It used to be pointed out to me, not infrequently, that I had a negative attitude. It's true I've been a staunch critic of society most of my life. And of others, admittedly.
It was mildly disturbing, factual enough, so I worked on it and tried to cultivate a more agreeable personality. The funny thing is .... I didn't want to be thought of as bitter. It did seem like an insult. I knew I was angry a lot but that didn't bother me all that much. Bitter was never applied to me, though. It seemed like it was for older people.
So I got to wondering, "What is this thing called bitter? Why the aversion? "

Bitter: Having an acrid, disagreeable taste. Unpleasant to accept.
Acrid: burning, sharp,
acris: acid

If it's one of the four taste buds, it must be pretty important. Part of the main sensation of life since only four tastes made it to the human tongue. My theory is that the taste receptors are symbolic of experience and we need sweet, salty, sour, and bitter to maintain our places in empirical space and time. Sweet is easy to take in, salty is delicious, sour is a little tricky, but bitter is tough. Then I started thinking of bitter things .... smoke, medicines, fruit seeds, herbs, weeds.
So here's my conclusion. Bitterness is unpleasant but comes in anyway. The receptors indicate the ability to assimilate the experience. It can even cause a sort of sickness but in the end I think it could be part of healing. Part of acceptance of the whole reality of the physical realm and it's emotional counterpart. And the acid could be a catalyst in the human chemistry. A stimulation. There's a certain amount all the time. There's probably more bitterness in my make-up than I realized, now that I'm no longer especially angry. And of course, I am a little bit older.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh...I always thought bitter meant 'beyond repair' which is why I've always been dismayed when someone has called me bitter.
I've learned over the years that with my Capricorn Moon square my Aries Mars/Pluto opposition...I'm just not going to look sufficiently intimidated enough.
If a woman looks pissed off when the crap is hitting the fan, and is still remaining calm in her anger I think that's very intimidating for some (hence the 'you seem so bitter' comments). You know, being hysterical must be better. It still irritates me to think about. (Maybe I'm bitter? LOL).

17/4/08 7:04 AM  
Blogger m.p.k. said...

I enjoy many so called "bitter" beers. Bitter is a great taste when done right. How about bitter-sweet? And tart... These can be wonderful. There are many who can't tolerate bitter but I've found it can be among the finest of the acquired tastes. Any of the tastes can be overdone, bitter is just a bit more subtle to get right.

17/4/08 10:38 AM  
Blogger m.p.k. said...

I was also thinking of cucumbers. Some are unbearably bitter, but in others it's just right. I don't think you can entirely remove it and have the right balance.

17/4/08 10:40 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

Some good insights into an interesting topic. All I can add is, as you pointed out, bitter is one of four taste sensations. In temperament as well as taste, it's probably good to maintain a sense of balance.

17/4/08 10:43 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

I find it ironic how so many people LOVE bitter-tasting stuff, but a bitter personality? OH NOES!

As for me, I have a bitter personality and don't like coffee, so I'm bad both ways.

17/4/08 11:56 AM  
Blogger jm said...

Coffee, of course!

I find it all so revealing and telling us all something about our denial as a society. Interesting that some people have readily admitted being bitter, some have vehemently denied it.

I always thought bitter meant 'beyond repair'

Yes. Exactly. Your observations are good, chris. The point about hysteria being preferable and the idea of "you're bitter" being an insult showing lack of intimidation. That in itself is telling in terms of denial.

There are many who can't tolerate bitter but I've found it can be among the finest of the acquired tastes.

Aha! "Acquired" being the word. Experience of living and acceptance.

Cucumbers are weird. I understand pigs won't touch them and I always thought that was interesting.

Yes, bitter is the bottom in personality, sweet the top. I began to realize we are all of these and probably try to pretend to be sweet to avoid criticism.

Auryuvedic medicine is based on balancing the tastes which is why I suspect that the controversy has a healing component. People recognized the opportunity when their feelings got a name. It was finally OK to admit it.

Very very interesting. And all the coffee that is consumed. Starting the day with bitter?

17/4/08 3:04 PM  

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