As Laetitia unlocked the ornate wooden door of the Emerald Victorian and started a pot of coffee brewing, she was in a good mood. This was another almost-day-off. She sat in a large, overstuffed chair in the library waiting for the sound of exploding steam to signal the end of the brewing process. As she looked at the paneled wall, she saw something she hadn’t noticed before. Hanging on the wall was a framed image of a circular image silkscreened in black on white glossy paper. As Laetitia looked more closely, she saw that it contained a cryptic message: “Transcend the Bullshit.” She went into the kitchen, came back with a steaming cup of coffee, punched the phrase into the Mind’s Eye computer, and found that Pacific Northwest artist Harold Balazs (pronounced “blaze”), created the image in the 1970s. The phrase is a favorite of his. The image is also found near the top of a large outdoor sculpture he did in Spokane called the “Lantern.”
Laetitia wondered why she hadn’t seen the silkscreen print before. She spent an hour or two in the library every day. Was it there before today? She had no idea what went on at the Emerald Victorian after she left. It was always spotlessly clean, and obviously someone came in daily and left a packet of freshly roasted coffee beans. She thought the materials in the library changed from time to time, but she wasn’t sure.
What is Balazs trying to tell us when he uses this slightly rude phrase, “Transcend the Bullshit?” Several bloggers attempted to describe what it meant to them, but to Laetitia the phrase seemed to defy definition. It is about trying to rise above the soul-numbing aspects of adult life? Is it about seeking truth? Is it what scientists try to achieve when they peer-review articles submitted to journals? Was it what journalists tried to achieve when they used to verify information before publishing it? On a personal level, is it any different from Joseph Campbell’s exhortation, “Follow your bliss,” or Jesus’ advice to his disciples in Verse 6 of the Gospel of Thomas: “Do not lie; and that which you hate, do not do?” Laetitia still had to write a limerick so she did, posted it, and went out to enjoy the rest of the day.
The art paragon Harold Balazs
Made designs that encrypted a phrase
Telling our human species
“Transcend bovine feces,”
Well, not quite, for I paraphrase.