Mincing Our Oaths

Thoughts on being a potty-mouthed atheist in a world of Religious profanity.

As a bona-fide + atheist I find myself curiously conscious about the oaths I speak. Every time, in a moment of anger, I inadvertently begin barking “Jesus!” or “Christ!” or “God Damn it!” I feel slightly embarrassed afterward, as if my thoughtless reliance on these oaths, and others like them, were a betrayal of my own ideals. + It is almost as though the involuntary use of these words, signifiers of Ideas I reject, reveals some sort of personal weakness. + What it reveals, however, is the simplest of dumb-dumb facts. Namely that the English language is so brim-full of Religious oaths, that to remove them from one’s vocabulary would effectively render you, in your anger, red-faced and vein-popped but mute. 

06.18. filed under: belief. ideas. life. observations. 4


Are you familiar with the Federal Writer’s Folklore and Life Histories project? It was a subsection of the larger FWP (itself a New Deal arts program) undertaken to support writers during the great depression. The Folklore Project, in particular, has fascinated me for years because at bottom it is simply a collection of the musings of ordinary people walking the 1930’s streets; and largely anonymous ordinary people at that. For example, the typewritten text above is all we are given by way of biographical information on the man who dictated a piece I came across today, and wanted to share. See below for I’m a Might-Have-Been, recorded in New York circa 1938.

06.15. filed under: history. humanity. people. 2


Abracadabra!

Can you begin to imagine the amount of time spent by the human race in pursuit of magic? I am not speaking metaphorically here. I mean can you imagine the sum total man-hours devoted to actively invoking, incanting, intoning, beseeching, divining, scrying, summoning, chanting, conjuring, and casting? And though, so far as we know, not a single minute of all that feverish sorcery yielded the intentional result with greater efficiency than chance, magic continues, and will continue, probably forever. And do you know why? Well, setting aside the fact that the whole endeavor is damn poetic specifically because of its futility, fascinating because of its baroquely fanciful trappings, pathos-packed because of its provenance, and let’s face it, pretty hilarious on the whole, there is another, simpler reason; one which I believe will be self-evident if you take a gander at what I’ve set out for you below…

06.11. filed under: belief. history. humanity. play. 7


Objectified Circuitry

There is something terrifically satisfying about seeing, with your own eyes, the humble genesis of world-changing creations. The image above is a case in point. What we see pictured here, as I’m sure many of you already know, is the world’s first integrated circuit, created by Jack S. Kilby in the summer of 1958. That this creation, with its bubbled wax and carefully twined wire, is the work of human hands is unmistakable. The seemingly messy, cobbled-together, simplicity of it is heartening somehow when one compares it to the microchips of present day, which a human hand is not meant to touch and could only hope to damage with its meaty, imprecise groping. This is a technology which though reality-shaping has, in large part, been complexified right out of direct human contact.

06.07. filed under: bits&bytes. design. history. science. 4


This photograph, shot in 1840 and titled Self Portrait as a Drowned Man, is not of a drowned man, and if it had been it would be far less interesting or important. This humble image, so far as anyone knows, can claim all of the following honorifics- First instance of intentional photographic fakery. First photographic practical joke. First use of a photograph as propaganda / protest. And, quite possibly, a result of the world’s first reliable photographic process, direct positive or otherwise.

06.04. filed under: art. history. people. 2


I wonder whether any of you have seen the film Lars and the Real Girl? It was a sweet, chaste sort of film considering its casting of a Real Doll as the female lead, and though I enjoyed it I couldn’t help but spend its entire length being reminded of the altogether less sweet, less chaste, true life corollary of “Oscar and the Alma Doll.”

The synopsis of this tale might go as follows- In 1911 Viennese artist Oskar Kokoschka (or as the German press referred to him “der tolle Kokoschka”) meets Alma Mahler, the widow of composer Gustav Mahler. A relationship begins consisting mainly of hot sex and expressionist painting. Or “the good life” as it’s sometimes called. Oscar, for his part, falls obsessionally, passionately, possessively hard. Alma... not so much.

06.01. filed under: art. history. people. 6


Well folks, here I am! Alive. (Not than any of you rotten ingrates asked after my well-being at any point in the last silent month.) I haven’t been through any travails, haven’t been away on any exotic trips, haven’t even been paralyzed by a 50 ton ennui pressing against my spine. Nothing like that. I’ve been here, just quiet-like.

Truth be told it’s pretty simple. It’s this damned site! This site takes a huge amount of time and effort to maintain with the bar I’ve set for myself as high as it is. Honestly It’s tough to churn out the kind of lengthy, researched, original content I aim for and it leaves little time for other pursuits. That said, I am stubbornly unwilling to lower the bar. I love the Nonist as it is, I’ve just found that lately my mind has been running on other tracks. Hence the absence.

So what’s the solution?

Rather than shift focus and start posting less developed content to The Nonist, I’ve created a second site called The Nonist Annex. The Annex will be less formal and more freeform, featuring more bite-sized and link oriented content. This format will allow me to post more often, stay limber and connected, while simultaneously allowing some time for other pursuits. That’s the hope at least.

Rest assured that when inspiration strikes I will still be posting new original content on the Nonist proper, I am running them concurrently, but for the time being at least, and certainly while this splendid warm weather continues to beckon me outside for ever more rounds of drinks, expect to see the bulk of my online activity happening at the Annex.

For those of you that depend on feed readers you can add the Annex right here: RSS / ATOM. To the rest of you, I sincerely hope to see you there, and if you’ve got any compatriots who are also Nonist readers, do let them know.

On to The Annex…

05.28. filed under: announcements. 12


Subjectivity and the Subjugated

Feathers and beak but not a bird, not quite. It is roughly man-shaped; and though the head tilts and the arms outstretch like a midnight stranger, without a face and without hands it is not a man either, not quite. It is Man-but-not-Man, that most ancient mold for the manufacture of disquiet, never failing to lend a nightmarish quality to the unknown. The light is cluttered with hard shadows and the mind, unsure, is forced toward interpretation. You are a child and it is a swooping, enveloping horror. You are a hunter and it’s an avenger. You are a Freudian and it is your mother hovering, unreachable, in the middle-distance. You are a seer and it is an omen. You are a vaudevillian and it is a punch-line delivered into silence. You are a captain of industry and it is an accusatory night-sweat. On and on for each. At bottom its simple: you are a you and it is not, which is enough. Its “otherness”  provokes an aggressive subjectivity.

03.30. filed under: art. books. history. humanity. ideas. 11


A spring day. A holiday. A beautiful day for origins laid bare. The question arises from within and without, from mischievous children and coots embittered by a lifetime in minority, “what do bunnies and eggs have to do with anything?” And there might be a squirm, and their might be a laugh, and there might even be an answer which deigns to include the word “Goddess” or “fertility” or “birth.” It’s a beautiful day for the survival of annexed symbols and the bright light of incongruousness that they shine. There is an implicit acknowledgment of lineage in those symbols that a hundred generations of voices crying “ultimate Truth” can’t drown out; a moon which won’t be eclipsed.

Across the northern hemisphere bodies are goaded and throb, independent of mind and careless of culture, as they always have. Biology, the great uniter, offering every animal their undeniable cues. Today, in the spring light, warm and feminine in its promise of fecundity, we’re presented a beautiful day for clarity. Feeling that light on our face, its winks and hints at comfort, we might ask, “Why should this light be refracted through a lens of bloody beatings and spear tips and torture? What has this light to do with the adventures of a murdered man’s corpse?” Or, “Have we moved the movable feast too far?” Perhaps today is the best day in the year to feel plainly the qualitative difference between healthy biological realities and the dark, gnarled festoons and embellishments of human abstraction.

Note: The image is a detail of Hans Baldung Grien’s Death and the Woman c.1517.

03.23. filed under: belief. humanity. observations. 5


So here is an image and with it, I’ll assume, a good deal of blank faces. Possibly a small percentage understand the insinuation straight away, but they aren’t much amused. The rest perhaps sigh their askance, “Ho-hum, so what’s this then?” Let’s parse it shall we? There is text. It reads, “An then yer arse fell aff.” This is Scottish vernacular; A phrase employed to call out the tell-tale wafting of bullshit particles into a nasal cavity. Below the text we have a kilt. Taking into consideration the inclusion of legs and socks, surely purposeful, we could assume that the focus is not the kilt specifically but rather the tartan pattern itself. A good assumption, making an ass of no one. So what are we left with then? Why, a calling-out of the incredible hokum which is the “ancient Scottish clan tartan.” That’s what.




What interests me here is not that an industry would prop-up a line of bullshit to make cash, obviously,
but that an entire population would so willingly abandon reality and not only adopt the bullshit in its stead but perpetuate it for generations… well, it leaves you kind of speechless.

It makes modern complaints of “tartantry” seem altogether more amusing. More than that knowing the truth transforms the burly, bagpiping, kilted figure that your mind conjures at the mention of “Scottish” into an entirely more complex figure. Where as initially you might have felt vaguely embarrassed or guilty at your mind’s involuntary employment of such stereotypical imagery, now you almost have to laugh.
 
I mean, think about it… who the hell is that guy anyway? An “ignorant oversimplification” of a fictional romantic character amalgamated from various traditions and conceits who himself is masquerading as an historical figure? A caricature of a false historical ideal who none the less reflects, on some level, the actual modern figures who have adopted the fiction as a fact and by their action made him real? How do you even begin to approach a creature like this emotionally or philosophically?

Truth is I haven’t the faintest idea. I just think the whole thing fascinating. But then I am a Morrison lad after all, and whatever else he is, that burly, farting, bagpiping, kilted figure with his balls exposed to the Scottish wind is quite possibly me coosin!

Anyhow, crazily longwinded though this post was , I hope at least a few among you soldiered through and enjoyed.

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03.19. filed under: history. humanity. life. people. 11


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