A Midwestern Koan - Reflections On A Possible WisdomJanuary 30th, 2009
by David Breithaupt
Shit is gold. That’s the message I saw written in the snow on the State House lawn as I waited for my bus transfer. It was Monday, January 19th, the last day of W’s reign of dumbness and I was feeling jubilant. The stinging cold did not hinder the usual crowd of stragglers, panhandlers and misfits. Even the Thalidomide Kid was in his usual spot across the street, bobbing to his interior beat next to his coffee can full of change. I was hoping for the bus to hurry and as I waited, I wondered what the anonymous author meant by his cryptic message.
Was it the demented scribble of a madman, a Buddhist statement for reconciliation of our dualistic nature or an eco-statement from some Earth First traveler? The phrase echoed in my head all week. Obviously I had little else on my plate. What at first seemed a simple statement became increasingly complex, like mental Chinese hand cuffs, the more I thought about it. If shit did equal gold, then the inverse would be true, gold equals shit, which in turn seems to me to be an economic statement. In the context of our times it became an open-ended proverb, a many headed hydra and like any religious scripture, could mean anything. By the end of the week I reached a dead end. Thus I enlisted the aid of some writer friends for their input…
Charles Bowden; You’ve got me on this one, unless it was a message left by an organic farmer who wants to share his wisdom. Best turn the matter over to Homeland Security.
Jonathan Lethem; I suspect this is a message from King Felix or Bishop Timothy Archer - a subtle reminder from the afterlife that continued pooping is the only proof we have that we are not all ghosts. Invest in shit while you can.
Charles Plymell; Naw…if shit was gold, the poor would be born without assholes!
Jerry Stahl; Messages are always there. When I’m really dialed into my writing, I see signs everywhere.
Nick Tosches; Sounds more like Jainist (than Taoist), but the possible meaning eludes me.
Rick Moody (soon to be father); You know in the childbirth classes, there is a whole chart for your baby’s first fecal productions. What to expect for the entirety of week one. It looks just like a laminated menu card from a diner. I just can’t believe my life now includes such things. So: shit is gold.
Clinical Art (Amsterdam): I believe that what we have here is a case of opioid-deprivation-induced-dyslexia. That is, had you taken a photo of the phrase ‘Shit is golden’ and then sent that to me, I (or He Who Is Definitely Not Suffering from THC Deprivation-Induced-Dyslexia) would have been able to point out to you that what the ‘writing’ actually said is ‘Tish is golden’. If you go to one of those mid-Ohio state ‘universities’ that has a History of Television Department, you can take a look at the Adam’s Family TV series and see if you agree (Tish=Morticia Adams).
Olivier (France); In Paris we have a lot of freaks in the public transport and I remember a thing in connection with “shit is gold” (I’ll try to explain with my weak English). In a train between France and Belgium, I was seated near a tramp. The train was packed and he was drinking whiskey in a plastic beaker. He spoke very loudly with other guys and people in the train looked outraged. It lasted a moment and the tramp standed up and quitted the carriage. People stopped talking. No more to say. An old man turned over, looked for the tramp, “is he in the toilets?” Finally people missed him…he was the only interesting person in the carriage. I don’t know if you understand what I mean (I’m not sure too!) but it’s my reply.
So there you have it. Draw your own conclusions. And please, if you are in Columbus, don’t mess with my head and leave any more messages on the lawn. Life is complicated enough.