Monday, June 04, 2007

Preface to Bullshit

I’ve talked before about how I was trying to reign in my cussing. Ninety-nine percent of the time, it just isn’t required to make a point. It’s like a really hot pepper: in the right dish, and on occasion, and in very small amounts, it’s just the right additive. But you wouldn’t put pepper in your breakfast cereal, or your sport drink, or most everything else you’d eat.

Anyway, I’m still working at it, to mixed results, but it helps to remind myself that for most cuss words, there’s a cleaner substitute that works just as well. “Eff it,” “freaking,” “crap,” “who gives a flip,” “dork,” you get the picture. But when you want to call Bullshit on something, nothing works like “Bullshit!”

Interestingly enough, Wikipedia (and you all know how I love Wikipedia) actually has an entry for Bullshit. Turns out that the earliest reference in the Oxford English Dictionary has for Bullshit is a poem by T.S. Elliot entitled The Triumph of Bullshit. Just a little etymology for you.

When I named my blog One for Truth, I meant to lead myself by staking out an aspiration for my life. To speak truthfully and directly. To respect the truth enough to not expect that I already had it figured out cold. And above all, to neither bullshit nor be swayed by bullshit.

One of the great things about calling Bullshit is that everyone knows what Bullshit is, though they may not they recognize it when it’s in their face. That’s why a commitment to calling Bullshit is just as important as speaking the truth. You’re only half committed to truth if you aren’t willing to call Bullshit when you smell it.

Bullshit is a dangerous and constant companion on the human journey. Every avenue of human affairs is rife with bullshit. Politics, religion, advocacy, business, social networks… you almost can’t put your foot down without landing in bullshit. And we pay a pretty high price in all realms of life for spreading and swallowing that bullshit.

So I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, driven primarily by reflections on how I’ve been bullshitting myself in so many ways. I’ve been meaning to break this down, to blog about it, to podcast about it, but the more I reflect on it the bigger it gets. So I figured I’d just get started with this post and flesh the thoughts out over time.


At 4:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

um... can we say 'bullspit' when we're around church people?

(I'm a gosh-darned, effing wussy when it comes tocussing...)

At 9:53 PM, Blogger Shelly said...

*snickers at jefe's comment*

Seriously, though, around the churchy people I either abbreviate the word or say "bullcrap". (In private and among the non-churchy ones is a totally different matter. :))

At 11:53 AM, Anonymous Sarah Jane said...

I agree with you about occasional doses of "pepper" -- although I do try to be extra cautious when I'm around people who are actively bothered by rough language.

That said, I think what's most important about this entry is your commitment to calling bullshit when you see (or smell!) it. Forcing people to re-evaluate and take responsibility for their ideas and actions is a gutsy thing to do, and it requires a lot more maturity than simply backing down and thereby "enabling" their bullshit to continue.

At 5:16 PM, Anonymous Rev. Dan said...

Pepper is a staple of my diet... I use everything else as an accent.

> I do try to be extra cautious when
> I'm around people who are actively
> bothered by rough language.

I try to be extra cautious to not be around people who are actively bothered by "rough language." If they're unwilling to accept that words are words then they're not likely to have much else going on upstairs besides being offended by someone else's vocabulary. It's one of my personal litmus tests.

May I recommend the excellent book: "On Bullshit" by Harry G. Frankfurt. It's short, but it's great.

At 11:42 AM, Blogger Zeke said...

I listened to "On Bullshit" via a download from The essay spent a lot of time distinguishing bullshitters from liars, saying that between the two, at least liars actually value the truth. For a bullshitter, the truth is actually irrelevant. It's the perception that matters.


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