My department at work:
May St. Jerome watch over all those who work inside the halls of the library.
My department at work:
May St. Jerome watch over all those who work inside the halls of the library.
Here are some pics from the High Gravity book release at Catland Books in Brooklyn from March 6th.
There will be a book release event for PLATONIC ONE’s new illustrated novel/grimoire HIGH GRAVITY: Werewolves, Ghosts, and Magick Most Black published by Oneiric Imprint at Catland Books in Brooklyn (987 Flushing Ave. Brooklyn, New York) on Friday, March 6th at 10pm. The event will feature a reading from the book by Ken Henson, and poetry readings by Russell Dillon, Katie Byrum, Sarah Francis, Amelia Ferguson, Elyse Johnson, Blake Evans, and Joe Trame.
Ken Henson is a Curtis G. Lloyd Fellow of the Lloyd Library and Museum and the author and illustrator of the treatise Alchemy and Astral Projection: Ecstatic Trance in the Hermetic Tradition (2014). He has been published in Abraxas Journal and Clavis Journal, and he recently collaborated with the Philosophical Research Society to restore and reissue Manly P. Hall and John Augustus Knapp’s Revised New Art Tarot (2014). Blue Jay Slayer, the art/poetry book Ken created with Matt Hart, is due this spring by Aurore Press. He is an Associate Professor and the Head of Illustration at the Art Academy of Cincinnati in Ohio.
Russell Dillon is the author of the collection of poems Eternal Patrol (Forklift Books, 2013), and the chapbook Secret Damage. He began life in New York, continued it in San Francisco, and now continues it further in New York where he is co-editor for Big Bell.
Katie Byrum is a native Kentuckian who currently lives in Brooklyn, New York. For sixteen years, she has worked in the food and beverage industry, studying whiskey and its effects on the human psyche. She co-curates two poetry events in Brooklyn, the witchy series COVEN and the Tri-Lengua Reading Series.
NOISE IS THE POISON
“Listen with pain. Hear with pain. Ears are wounds.” -Einsturzende Neubauten. 
Noise is a musical poison. Administered in the right dose and decibel it can be quite pleasurable, inducing a state of ecstasy, just as certain poisons, when taken in minute amounts or with proper adjuncts, are known to create feelings of rapture. Sustained noise can have the effect of sending the listener out of the body in a manner akin to the phytochemical compounds used by shamans for traveling the astral plane. And just as plant poisons can cause death at the right dose, so can noise cause the careless listener to go deaf, destroying the ears natural range of hearing.
Yet over the course of the 20th century and into the 21st composers and musicians have been fascinated with noise. In part this can be seen as a response to noise pollution, which has accelerated with the proliferation of industry and fossil fuel technology. Both art music and popular music have either embraced, or merely coped with the advent of dissonance as the nineteenth century ended and the twentieth began. Indeed, the genre of “Industrial” music arose at the apex of the planets immersion in factory industrialism during the 1970’s. One of the primary concerns of this style of music is the use and transformation of noise. Even on the downward slope of industrial civilization, noise pollution continues to be a factor affecting the health of wildlife, plant and human communities, in both rural and urban geographies.
The human sense of hearing has now become accustomed to manipulated and distorted sound. In American culture (the only one I can speak of from experience) the general taste for music runs towards that which has been adulterated in the recording studio. Pure acoustic music (of whatever genre) is ranked low on the scale of popularity. A survey of U.S. teenage internet users revealed that jazz and classical were among the least favorite in 2012. Folk fared not much better, while pop, rock and “other” remained dominant. While much noisy experimentation has occurred in both classical and jazz, these are also the genres that rely the least upon overdubs and added effects. It would probably be more painful to stick a teenager in Cincinnati’s Music Hall to hear the Symphony Orchestra than to take them to hear Merzbow.
American culture has become so addicted to the poison of noise that the antidote of silence, or even relative silence causes more pangs of desperation than further subjugations to audio pollution. The stillness to be found alone in a quiet room with no music at all -and no smart phone to fiddle with- is more of a threat than the damage caused overloading the biological and spiritual circuits of humanity through total media saturation.
For some music fans and musicians the transformation of noise and subsequent immersion within it may be the path of least resistance. Through immersion comes tolerance, and the immune system is strengthened, able to shrug off the daily assault of noise in all its varied forms, allowing it to become part of the casual background radiation of life. Others may have to renounce music all together in order to be cured. They ascend the mountain to find a hermits cave where they will dwell alone for a time, secluded in a cloister where no new releases are delivered, and the entire catalog of humanities past musical recordings are not available to them. Here they will learn to listen inwardly, and perhaps come to the realizations as John Cage had, reflecting on the omnipresence of sound and subtle vibrations.
Yet most modern humans don’t have the option to turn off the noise or drop out of society all together. When we tune out, we must do selectively and electively, walking the path of the hermit inwardly rather than outwardly. Even in the city one can learn to tune the lamp of illumination to the silence of the void through the practice of meditation.
What is clear is that the modern listener must formulated a plan for transmuting the poison of noise. Making large allowances for silence, while also allowing for moments of diving head first into digital chaos seems to be healthy responses in a world where our own power and control over noise is minimalist. To that end it is helpful to trace the mythos of rock and roll, one of the most pervasive genres around.
Here is a poem from my upcoming chapbook UNDERGROUND RIVERS to be published via Oneiric Imprint, sometime in March.
MILL CREEK BLUES
Maketewa you were once called,
Maetewa once held in awe, you were
once a marshland
below the hillside forest
banks of cattails, otter families, dragonflies
sacred ground for those who made a home in this valley!
Alas Maketewa, what you once were
& what you have become
is no fault of the water itself.
As if you asked to staunch the flow
of the little piglets blood
back in the day when
Spring Grove was a street of swine and mud
you stayed the course
even as the trickle of trichinosis
was sprayed downstream.
Now white ghost pigs fly
over the graves of the grove
as the trains squeal on by
past slaughterhouse remains
your shores still slick from the last flood.
Even your bloated carp
got sick off the hot dogs.
& it was all a Kahn anyway
Even the raccoons
wanted nothing to do
with the dumpsters
but washed their marbled hands
malodorous brown soup of
lye & lime, black ink of
concentrated tanning liquors
hide trimmings, offal
glue, fertilizer, grease
where herons now wade in the shallow
workers wallowed, dumping the tallow
thinking you were just some serpentine ditch
who like the arms of a forgiving lover
continued to receive & remained open
even as the abuse compounded
your banks now home to impound lots
junk yards of reclaimed metal, car parts
the springs that dotted the valley capped with sewer lids
crows & vultures
circle diesel tracks
Mill Creek you were once called Maketewa!
Mill Creek you are now held at bay, arms length
even by those who just live a few blocks away.
We are not privy to your long suffering moods
as we no longer stand knee deep in your mud
in your water, we do not swim & play.
Maketewa you hold us in dismay
we who pissed in your pot
& left our chemical trails of dirty vapors
to mark where we settled, the way we came.
The plastic bags tuck on sticks
choke hyperventilating frogs covered in black ick
now glow in Fernald fumes of marsh light
from everyday humdrum spills
as Proctor and Gamble empty their sink
as the MSD puts shit in our drink.
The creeks have been diverted to storm drains
the storm drains aimed at the Mill Creek
the bedrock converted to long channels of concrete
& fish don’t swim but sink
from the bathwater bleach, from the poison
keep out of reach,
children, keep out
poured down the sink
with all the crap from the hole that stinks
all creep into this divided basin
the east side from the west side
pigskin tiger pelts are our pride
in this pork chop metropolis.
False industry hides behind its tail.
Even the good ol’ boys
in the Mill Creek Yacht Club
have a hard time setting sail.
Those boys gotta make sure
they got all their doctors shots
keep their immunity up.
Cause you ain’t recovered
from your days as an open sewer
& you sure did stank it up.
Underneath the bridge
sad old bums set up camp to sleep
next to sad twenty-something bums
who stay up all night, to keep warm
on burned shipping pallets
tomorrow, maybe, brings better luck
sign flying, hitching out his thumb
for someone to pluck a few singles from their wallet
& place into a worn out Starbucks cup.
The forks in the road of fate seem as dry
as Dry Fork Creek in high July
& these fellas are just as thirsty
enough to make a grown man cry.
Living broke off the Mill Creek is hard work
fishing for carp with nylon lines
all those bones to pick, like with Fred
who they had to kick out of camp
as he was fixin’ to bring the popo down on their heads
what with his needles & all, & no thread
anyhoo, it ain’t like americas got a shortage of tramps.
It’s been a long time since the stream was full of trout.
But the down & out? We got that.
The wretched & tired, deep fried & true
we got them too. The poor from the harbor
the tempest-tost masses new to these shores
just up from West Virginia’s door, last of the mountains
removed, yearning to breathe
free from the coal dust, but ain’t no jobs
up here, no more, no more, no, no.
Floaters is what the coroners get
when persons unknown hit the road
& they get dragged up onto the ridge.
It’s a pretty short bridge so did they jump
into your thick cut loins? lined with concrete slabs.
Prefab answers just won’t do
when pulling jagged glass out of soles.
Children, remember to wear your shoes
& don’t drink the water.
The character Andrew Pendergast lurked in the background during the first two World Made By Hand novels penned by James Howard Kunstler. Even so, I was intrigued by Andrew after reading World Made by Hand and The Witch of Hebron. This was a man who had kept the town of Union Grove’s library open during the difficult years of America’s midnight hour. In the third novel of the tetralogy Andrew is fleshed out to become a pivot on which the novel and the fictional New York state town is made to stand. In A History of the Future, James has given a full breath of life to Andrew Pendergast. I’m very glad he did so, because this is a character those bracing themselves for the seismic shifts in store for industrial in store for industrial society can emulate now. Instead of just bearing witness to the ongoing drift of American culture further along the twilight path into darkness we can take a cue from these pages of literature and do the work towards making ourselves lamps who will be able to see and act in the darkness ahead.
Andrew is such a man. Adaptable. Foresighted. Possessed of a set of “diverse skills and interests” that are necessary to live in difficult times and save those aspects of American culture worth saving. In the post-collapse village where the character makes his home he finds a number of different roles to play. These roles are not appointed to him. He takes them on because they need doing.
1. He took charge of the town library. He dusted off the card catalog. Running a library on a card system is a skill that can be relearned. When I first began in library work the Olive-Kettering library at Antioch College was just being “updated” to a computer system. Working with the card filing system was a rather fun part of the work. Now with self-checkout machines, just like at the grocery store (instead of at the grocers) human interaction has been minimized and mediated by machines. Andrew’s library ran on limited hours, and with the help of some other volunteers, but it became a treasured for re-skilling and for the non-electric entertainment and edification of reading.
2. He formed a volunteer burial committee during a flu epidemic. In Kunstler’s sequence of novels a successive wave of diseases cull the human herd. In a strained economy, in a country with a brittle health care system, responses will be limited. As bodies pile up something will need to be done with them for the families who grieve, and for the continued health of those who remain. The death process used to be overseen by families and communities. Fraternal lodges and voluntary societies used to provide their members with plots of land and headstones. Now it is all outsourced. From the time a family member gets sick to the shovel of dirt on the coffin. If your town or city faced a plague and strict limitations on resources how would you cope with large tides of death? It’s a question worth thinking about. Doing something to get people in the ground would be an important step.
3. Andrew established a model garden on his half-acre property. Other towns folk learned to copy him because they had forgotten -or never learned in the first place- how to grow plants, how to tend food crops, how to bring in a harvest. Though Kunstler doesn’t spell it out, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the towns people also got some extra seeds off Andrew. Surely he’d be saving those from season to season.
4. Pendergast repaired old mechanical clocks. Some anarchist leaning types might not be so disappointed about a world without clocks. Especially time cards. Kunstler however imagines a world in which a solution for telling time is still in demand. Andrew makes himself useful by learning to fix the type of clocks which would still work without an electrical grid. My take-away from this is that it will also be useful to be able to fix those lower tech and appropriate that can be used to trade with others in the community. Another take-away is Andrew’s ability in managing his time and energy. If you are doing one thing, you are not doing another. To deliver on Andrew’s level requires both time and energy management. (One of the ways Andrew manages his energy is through celibacy -not popular in our sex obsessed culture, but effective. This part of the book reminds me of the discussion of the body and sexual energy in Wendell Berry’s classic The Unsettling of America.)
5. He painted portraits. In these books cell phones and digital cameras are no longer in use. The grid is down. The narcissism of the selfie is not a given in this history of the future. Non-digital photography may stand a chance of surviving for a time, but portraiture again becomes the most stable method for recording an individuals visage. Andrew had a store of paints he stocked up, but they were running out. From the books in the library he began the process of learn to mix paint from scratch using minerals and substances he wildcrafted in his own bioregion.
6. He organized and directed stage shows. No netflix. No movie theater. Meaningful entertainment can bring people together instead of isolating them in front of a box. Kunstler is here forseeing a person who works to preserve one of the great arts of humanity and who sees its value in adding to the quality of life during a time in which everyone has to make do with a lower standard than the Americans of the late 20th and early 21st believed was a birthright.
7. He directed the music circle of the congregational church. Andrew played piano and organized the rehearsals of a group of the towns musicians. Again this is another way of bringing people together and giving the other citizens something to look forward to on festive occasions -performances on the Fourth of July, Halloween, Christmas, and other celebrations.
This list doesn’t even exhaust other things Kunstler touches on his text (and perhaps it should be noted that Andrew’s story is only one of multiple threads in the novel).
This is a man of tremendous energy and ambition. He likes to work. It brings him satisfaction. Rather than feeling deadened and sad by the passing of modernity Andrew feels alive with an ecstasy he did not know in his former life working in the NYC publishing business. Perhaps his ability to work so hard and so much is aided by the lack of a day-job, perhaps by the absence of distracting gadgetry and digital media. Either way time must be filled and Andrew hears the tick of the clocks he wound and fixed himself. The best antidote to the malaise of depression and meaninglessness so common now, and one of the outcomes people in a collapsed/collapsing culture contend with, is to get to work on saving things that matter, doing which add texture to life. Without shipments of food, and big box stores to supply needs and wants, busyness is also more a matter of survival. In the present, depending on its form, busyness can be seen as a way of distraction from the anxieties of life. It is my view that many of these anxieties westerners face will be seen as superfluous on the far side of Americas imperial meltdown. Rather than being tired and worn out Andrew is vividly alive. I suspect Andrew might agree with the phrase, “idle hands make light work for the devil”.
He is so alive and full of energy a man who feels he is broken seeks out Andrew out. First this man has the intention of harming Andrew. Then he opens up to the possibility that he could learn something from him. This man, Jack, ends up staying on in Andrew’s home as a kind of servant, but one who is there of his own accord. He works on the chores and projects Andrew gives him in exchange for room and board and for Pendergast’s attentiveness towards rehabilitating the mans feeling of brokenness.
On the far side of America’s ongoing collapse there will be many broken institutions and people who also feel they are broken. One of the best things that can be done as a preventive measure is to shore up any existing cracks in ones self. Don’t add to the strain society is already under, but seek to be self reliant, and from that base, work outwards into the family and community. Be a rock and shield. This book creates a great example of what that kind of person might look like.
Now that 2015 is well over a week old, I thought I would take the time to look back over some of the book releases of the previous year. I didn’t pick up a ton of new releases, but I crossed paths with a few. Generally I read where curiosity and synchronicity lead me to, and the books I end up spending time with are from various time periods. A lot of what really moved me came out of the stacks of the library, but there were a number of titles I feel compelled to give note to. Here goes.
In February last year I had the honor of meeting Paul Pines through the auspices of the Walnut Street Poetry Society of which I am a member. When we met, his collection “Fishing on the Pole Star” wasn’t out yet. It plumbed the depths and reached deep to catch some whoppers, while also finding interesting bits of flotsam and jetsam as a matter of beach combing. The book is also accompanied by the wondrous visual collage’s of Wayne Atherton. These poems help the reader to remember that consciousness does swim weightless through the world. Published by Dos Madres Press.
Also from Dos Madres was a book from the Skaldric Cauldron of Cincinnati Scop, Ralph La Charity. “FARWELLIA a la Aralee” is Ralph’s tribute through nine poems to poet Aralee Strange who passed away in 2013. Aralee had strong ties to Cincinnati and I had the privilege of hearing her read on a few occasions before she moved to Athens, Georgia. I think she touched everyone who came in contact with her in some way. At the tribute readings for Aralee I was also privileged to hear Ralph execute this sequence from memory with an accompaniment on amplified kalimba at the Northside Tavern (my favorite neighborhood watering hole). My favorite of the poems is Victor Weave, where he writes: “Call the hearth at home friendly fire / Call the cold hours’ starlight friendly fire / & while friendly fires everywhere & forever / this fire reaps & preys / this fire lights both ways”. This book also inclueds a facsimile reproduction of CINAMANUENSING (a writ of habeas corpus poetique) that Ra’s Elf wrote while Aralee worked on filming her screenplay The Train, a project she never completed, her personal great white whale.
Josephine McCarthy‘s books on magic have yet to disappoint me in any way. She writes directly from her own seasoned experience. While there is a place for the kinds of magicial and spiritual nonfiction that use textual research alongside magical research, it is also very refreshing to read books where the author puts as much of their accumulated inner wisdom into the text. As ethereal as that sounds, “Magical Healing: A Health Survival Guide for Magicians and Healers” is an eminently practical book that will be of use to anyone who makes the magical arts not an accessory to their personality, but a way of life. Magical practitioners inevitably take hits from the inner worlds that have impacts on the outer body, the vessel of the soul. While some of this material was touched on in “Magic of the North Gate“, it is expanded upon in depth to a tenfold order in this text. It will also be of interest and use to anyone involved in alternative healing modalities. The book contains methods of visionary healing, using tarot as a tool in diagnosis, chapters on homeopathy, herbs, and much more. It doesn’t matter what tradition you may belong to in magic, this book offers tools that are applicable across systems. Published by Mandrake of Oxford.
“Time, Fate & Spider Magic“ by Oryelle Defenestrate-Bascule also came out in 2014. I must admit, my poem “The Spider” is quoted in full in his textual weave, but that’s not why it is is on this list. The book brings together a lot of the magical, theatrical and ritual work Oryelle has done over more than a decade. At close to 360 pages, with many illustrations, this work gives an in-depth account of all the work Oryelle has done exploring times web through magic and myth. Published by Avalonia Books.
“The Summer Sacrifice” by Holly Hinton is an exemplar Young Adult novel whose themes revolve around the Underworld, human sacrifice, and the dark Goddess. The heroine Jamie Tuff suffers from the peculiar ailment of soul wandering. Perhaps as teenagers and young adults some of us have had spontaneous out of body experiences ourselves. Or even hopped into other peoples bodies as the character does, getting us into trouble. So we can relate. Something else to relate to: being both Gifted and Dangerous. In the isolated society on the Island in the book, being both Gifted and Dangerous is not a brand you want to carry around with you. Leading to more trouble. And when you want to find out what is really going on with throwing teenagers off the cliff to feed the Goddess, it really doesn’t help you look good in front of the authorities, all set against a backdrop of climate change and collapse. The tone of the language is very British and also steeped in the countries dry flavor of humor, which I quite enjoyed. Each chapter heading is graced with illustrations by Hinton which adds a nice touch and ties it in with traditional elements of publishing for younger readers. As this is just book one of an ongoing story, I’m looking forward to where she takes The Master Games series next.
Other than the above I didn’t really read too many new releases in 2014. There are a number that are still on my wish list. These include:
…and many more. But I’ll definitely be checking the above out.
“To create is divine. To reproduce is human.” -Man Ray
GRAVE ROBBING THE MASTERS
Much of humanities best work did not come into being from passion and inspiration alone. Rather, it came into the chamber of a mind prepared and ripened on the emulation of others. The works produced by previous generations of writers and artists are a part of our heritage waiting to be hacked into. All you need to do is enter the Cemetery of Forgotten Books and choose one to become as your own. Take an author, any author, but preferably one you like, one who is a master of the craft, and copy out a passage of their work into a special book you keep just for this purpose. This book in time will become a compilation of favorite scenes and passages, a land of literary booty, treasures from the tomb.
STEAL TO BECOME AN AUTODIDACTATOR
If intellectual property is theft, stealing helps you in the quest of becoming an autodidactator. By pumping primary sources for a share of the gold your own mental gears will be slicked. Wheels will turn where before they sticked. It’s like spraying WD-40 into the cobwebs of the mind, or dripping some three-in-one oil on the rusty hinges of neural pathways.
COPYING IS A MANTIC ART
The suffix -mancy is found at the end of words relating to divination, such as cartomancy, and kleptomancy -the subject of this article. If it was just about taking a joy ride on the shoulders of giants, literary, artistic and intellectual appropriation would remain merely another form of kleptomania. Yet there is something portentous about the brazen act of the rip off, a phrase that can be translated in this context as: to rip up and riff off of.
William S. Burroughs showed how the future leaked out of his cut-up texts. Boundaries or zones are fundamental to both the self and its discourse but they are also passable both in the imaginary and the real. The real and imaginary intermingle of course. In stealing we step over one boundary. In cutting it up we throw it inside a matrix of possibility. In rewriting it fresh we fuse the I-for-myself with its viewpoint or experience. It is natural that prophecy is quoted in art. Copying the work of others establishes a landing strip for the Muse.
Even if you are just forging someone else’s name on a readymade off the assembly line, at least you have a pot to piss in. Sometimes you have to nevermind the bollocks and take a leak where you stand until the vapor clears. It has come down to us in legend that the Sex Pistols stole amplifiers and other music equipment from the Rolling Stones. This could have been a lie, which over time transformed into truth, and is thus an exemplar of propagande par le fait or, propaganda of the deed.
AN EXERCISE IN KLEPTOMANCY
This is only one permutation of a possible practice for cultural detritivores. It can also serve as a memory strengthening exercise, reinforcing key turns of phrase, words and choice rhetoric into your personal memory palace -itself just an antechamber of the vast Inner Library.
1. First pick a poet to plunder.
2. Copy a poem word for word.
3. Now put aside this sheet of paper and attempt to put the sentiment and as many words of the original as you can remember into your own piece of prose.
4. Once this task of necromantic or vampiric plagiarism has been achieved let this draft wither in the compost for a few days, until it becomes musty, and you have to bat away the fruit flies hovering over it. Move on to another project for a time.
5. Return to the article and make a new version of it, jumbling the collection of hints into confusion, and disarrange them into another perversion of the natural order. In this way you begin to act as a decomposer of cultured reality.
6. Set aside and let it rot for the space of one week to two months.
7. In the interim phase of this process repeat steps 1-6, using a different source author, preferably on a subject you feel to be incompatible with the first. Now you should have two pieces of writing obtained by kleptomantic reduction. Put them side be side together.
8. Through the art of recombination seek to weave the two disparate narratives into a single thread.
9. Edit at your will. This method is primarily one of decomposition, and is one way for artists to add to the cultural soil of the future.
Those who work in the plastic arts will need to use whatever inherent ingenium is available in them to devise an analogous method.
HOMAGE CVG of the Cincinnati Royals Collective just dropped this kleptomanic masterpiece.
A message from Thee Majesty:
The publishing arm of Sothis Medias, Oneiric Imprint, has just launched our first book title, HIGH GRAVITY by PLATONIC ONE.
The black magick novel/grimoire by PLATONIC ONE. 150 pages, 100 b&w illustrations. Oneiric Imprint, Sothis Medias. Go to and fro in the earth walking up and down in it with PLATONIC ONE and his friend SAND GO HOWL as they frequent underground clubs to hunt their werewolf brothers, read poetry, and search for the legendary mage COLIN BOYD, all the while indulging their antiestablishmentarian rants about various social and political institutions, processes for demon evocation, solutions to the ghost epidemic, and connections between art and The Great Work. Buy on Amazon.
Sothis Medias will be back in 2015 with new content. I hope everyone is having a happy holiday! Be Safe and have fun. -Justin Patrick Moore
I recently picked up a copy of Harry G. Frankfurt’s 2005 essay “On Bullshit” at one of my favorite used bookstores. I had read this not long after it came out, but it was good to spend some time revisiting the theme he addresses -the bullshit our culture finds itself mucking about in, and what exactly bullshit is from a philosophical perspective. Nine years later the essay is just as pertinent. There seems to be no shortage of the stuff, whether its just your average poop, or grand politcal crap slinging.
Harry asks the important question, “Why is there so much bullshit?“, and answers, “Of course it is impossible to be sure that there is relatively more of it nowadays than at other times. There is more communication of all kinds in our time than ever before, but the proportion that is bullshit may not have increased. Without assuming that the incidence of bullshit is actually greater now, I will mention a few considerations that help to account for the fact that it is currently so great.
“Bullshit is unavoidable whenever circumstances require someone to talk without knowing what he is talking about. Thus the production of bullshit is stimulated by whenever a person’s obligations or opportunities to speak about some topic exceed his knowledge of the facts that are relevant to that topic. This discrepancy is common in public life, where people are frequently impelled -whether by their own propensities or by the demands of others- to speak extensively about matters of which they are to some degree ignorant. Closely related instances arise from widespread conviction that it is the responsibility of a citizen in a democracy to have opinions about everything, or at least everything that pertains to the conduct of his country’s affairs. The lack of any significant connection between a person’s opinion’s and his apprehension of reality will be even more severe, needless to say, for someone who believes it his responsibility, as a conscientious moral agent, to evaluate events and conditions in all parts of the world.”
Certainly the proliferation of blogs -such as this one, laden with my own BS- and the lower barriers to publishing created by the widespread utilization of computer technology up the ante on the crap quotient. Add to this the fact that the world population now has a higher rate of literacy, more people reading, more people writing, and the amount of printed bullshit, aside from that discharged out the mouth, is sure to see an increase.
Could it be though, that within the fecal matter which most abhor, is a hidden resource? At a time when the soul of the west is barren, when our inner landscape has eroded, when the things which bind us together are under assault from materialist nihilism, absurd reductionism, and the corrosion of conformity, what we flush down the collective crapper may very well be what is actually needed to restore the inner and outer landscapes from their current state of gross misuse and waste.
To see how this might be so we must first check in with some deities and myths related to cattle. Bullshit, might after all, have a divine providence.
“Don’t plug the Cow-a-bunghole, dude.” -Bart Simpson
Instead, let it rip.
Cattle have long been part of the sacred terrain of humanities shared mythopoetic landscape. From the caves of Lascaux where our ancestors traced images of bison onto the walls, to the earliest written mention of cows being sacred in the Rig Veda, the cow has been seen as a symbol of wealth and fertility since ancient times. The Irish based their national epic around the favorite past times of cattle raiding as documented in the Tain Bo Cuailnge or Cattle Raid of Cooley.
It is not surprising that there have also been a number of cow and bull related deities. Kamadehenu is a Hindu bovine-goddess, not worshiped independently as such, but honored in the general reverence for cows within Hinduism. In ancient Egypt there is Hathor, who is depicted with cow horns in which is set a sun disk with Uraeus serpent. Isis is also at times depicted with cow horns. Apis is another Egyptian deity who took on the form of Bull. Mithra is the guardian of cattle, and in his later Roman form was shown as slaughtering a bull to bring to a banquet with Sol. Let us not forget the Golden Calf made by Aaron for the Israelites while Moses was up on Mount Sinai communing with Jehovah. The bull was sacred in Crete, in Cypress, the list goes on and on.
The life giving status appointed to the cow and related cattle species is not only from the flesh and dairy they provide, but from the from the foliage they graze upon being digested in the four separate chambers of their stomach, and being pooped out as a powerful manure to keep the soil healthy. This prima materia is rich in minerals. Besides being spread on the fields to ensure a bountiful harvest, while simultaneously providing food for other animal and fungals species, cow dung is also used as a source of fuel, the dried patties and cakes being burned. Buffalo chips and meadow muffins must surely be another form of manna.
Not only is bullshit sustainable, but holy.
In my own personal lexicon of symbolism shit represents the nigredo phase of alchemy. The time when everything is decomposed and putrefied. Depth psychologists have equated this with the dark night of the soul. Yet within all this mushy-stinky matter, this shit, is the very stuff of life, fertile and if composted, gives life and strength. This concept of taking crap material, and making into something that is good was explored in music by post-industrial group Coil on their 1984 album Scatology.
One reviewer said Coil made “good music, from shitty sounds“. The cover of the album shows an ass framed inside an inverted cross. The inside shows pictures of John Balance and Peter Christopherson lurking around a sewage treatment plant, “Sleazy” Peter’s hand covered in liquified filth. To me this picture shows the musicians as having something more powerful than the Midas touch. It confronted the biophobia so prevalent in society today, and showed the glory that can be found in the study of shit. The album had emerged out of the inspiration the couple found in their bondage and S&M practice, Sleazy often tying John up to the toilet. This approach, which revels in the by-products and wastes of our humanity, is one way to go about revitalizing culture in an age when it has all gone to shit. This is the work of the bullshit artist. It is the special province of those who would call them self a commissioner of the sewer.
A BRIEF DETOUR TO THE PISSOIR
As an antidote to purely visual art, Marcel Duchamp pioneered the field of readymade art. According to Andre Breton and Paul Eluard’s Dictionnaire abrégé du Surréalisme, a readymade is “an ordinary object elevated to the dignity of a work of art by the mere choice of an artist.” The practice of choosing an object was part of the aesthetic decision. In his quest to get away from himself by choosing prefabricated items, we see both influence and similarity to the working methods of John Cage, who also strove to take himself out of the art, through the use of chance operations.
The readymade’s of Duchamp show cleverness and humor and open the viewers eyes to seeing everyday things in new ways. By placing his piece Fountain, a urinal signed with the moniker R. Mutt, in a gallery show he questioned the idea of art itself, and showed that it isn’t always about what you make with your hands, but with how you frame an object, or assign meaning. Playing with meaning, reframing events, words, or whatever media you are working in, is part of the job of the bullshit artist.
(The work of Marcel Duchamp will continue to receive coverage inside the pages of the avant-garde grimoire.)
THE ART OF BULLSHIT
The urban dictionary says a bullshit artist is “a deceptive fuck that gets off on selling people worthless info as if it were fact.” This is why, as an artist, you have to know your shit, and be able to bullshit. Knowing your shit helps you put power into your work. Being able to bullshit might get your work into a gallery, or some other forum advantageous to for you to float a piece. If you want to be able to roll like banker, double-count and inflate the net value of what you think a piece of art, performance or what have you is worth. Distort the measurement of supply and demand, to create a speculative bubble around your creation. Reel people in and baffle them with bullshit. They’ll thank you for it later.
COMMISSIONER OF SEWERS
I got My Education in dreams. For years I had dreams of looking for something in sewers. I later realize the sewers were manifesting as part of an Underworld initiation experience. The Archangel Gabriel appeared in the guise of my high school friend Gabe Moses, and helped me find a piece of myself that was lost in the sewers. This was a bit of spontaneous soul recovery. Sewers are places we might lose a bit of ourselves to, if we’re not careful about what we are flushing away. It is good to get to know the guardians of these inner places. William S. Burroughs set himself up in the sewers as a commissioner.
This little essay has humbled my question on how freedom is expressed in a democracy. It is the spokesman of how to use sewers as a place for piping-in power. The crooked stink of ambition is smelled on the shirtsleeves of our presidents. The Sultan’s have ruptured the intestines of America, all for the price of an orgy. The personal sewage of opinion is a condition of democracy. It is best to secure dirt on the governor, to get pictures of him smoking the sheriff’s reefer with the Sultan’s. In the afternoon we stop by the majesties house to make friendly deals. It is time to blow the virtues of Richard Nixon, a vital folk hero who revered the skepticism of the United States public. We will no longer cover up under-the-counter deals, but give free reign to bourbon snorting, cigar swilling, fat ass politicians. No skill is required.