A Meditation on Bullshit

I’ve been thinking a lot about bullshit. Not literal bullshit (cow patties, meadow muffins, etc.) but human speech.

I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s a good kind of bullshit, and a bad kind of bullshit.

The good kind is I came to know early on. I grew up in a place where people would stop each other – at the grocery store, in the field, or passing each other on a dirt road – to “shoot the shit” for awhile. I should note that my dad is a world class bullshitter, so I consider myself the closest thing to an expert in its study. As a child, bullshit was kind of confusing (there’s lots of exaggeration, understatement, hyperbole, and straight truth all mixed together, and only decipherable by tone, a wink, or shared experience). As a teenager, it was annoying; I had music waiting on my boombox at home that I needed to listen to so my angst and general dissatisfaction could be affirmed and nourished by the grunge gods.

But as an adult, I simply marvel at the kind of bullshit I grew up with, and still love to hear it (of course never, ever actually speaking it). Fast talking means fast thinking, and someone with a great imagination and the gift of gab can have people laughing, crying, and gasping for air for as long as they hold court.

Now, I’m not living in my hometown anymore, but I don’t hear a lot of good bullshit: the kind that is so clearly unreal that it can only elicit something akin to joy and build strong social bonds. I mainly hear a lot of bad bullshit these days – probably because I sit in a lot of waiting rooms.

“What’s bad bullshit?” you ask. It’s the kind that demands to be respected as real (even when it’s CLEARLY not) and isn’t about building up communities, but harming and even destroying them.I was in a waiting room the other day, and a guy sits down beside me. I say “Hey,” which he took as a formal request to bury me in a dump truck load of absolute bullshit. I needed a snorkel to breathe. He was comparing our current and former presidents’ effect on the national debt. With the intensity of seven suns, he informed me that only one of these two men – both of whom have had to deal with strong economic headwinds from the pandemic – reduced the national debt. Now, he had a few years on me, but I remembered the last time that happened was during the Clinton years, as well as W’s first year.

I told him that. He agreed. And then continued to reiterate that former President Trump did it, too. I said, “Well, just factually, he didn’t, and I mean the guy was dealing with a pandemic, so we can cut him a little slack.” Again, he agreed. He even said, “Yeah, you’re right. Good point,” AND still went on to try to convince me that Trump reduced the national debt. A mountain of bad bullshit heaped on my head. I thought my eye doctor was going to save me, but then she started in on my cancer. Did you know I could beat it if I stopped eating sugar??? If only my world-class oncologist had suggested that!! Must be a conspiracy…or just some more big, bad bullshit.

Bad bullshitting is just about being right. It’ll suffocate a relationship in the time it takes to wait on a doctor or to do a routine eye exam. And give it long enough, it’ll kill your community, because if you can’t see others as worthy of really real human interaction, it’ll be impossible to sustain.

Don’t be a bad bullshitter. Whether it pretends to be a “conversation,” a “presentation,” or a “sermon,” I swear to you that it’s not worth it. Instead, bring back good bullshit. Share in the absurd with someone else because bullshit is a great fertilizer: it makes relationships and communities grow strong.

3 thoughts on “A Meditation on Bullshit

  1. Brandon, You have such an incredible gift of communication both on and off of the written page. Thank you for always expanding our tent pegs and taking us to new places of both humor and truth. You are the best!!💗


  2. I continue to be amazed at how well you understand -and put into words- this world and its people. Thanks for sharing it in such a real way.


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