Farting Around, Fart-Knocking, and Leaving-it-to-the-Devil [8-6-14]


In my youth, misspent or not, the phrase ‘farting around’ was quite useful and commonplace. When I might call Tom and inquire about what he and Jim were doing, it seemed quite intelligible for him to reply ‘we’re just farting around.’ Without further ado, I could implicitly assume there were no big plans among them for the immediate future. Relaxed, miscellaneous play bereft of any clear and urgent plans, but carelessly restless and flatulent. And there was that faint odor of fooling around epitomized in the actual and casual act of farting—breaking wind of the sort that comes from the bowels as it breaks down our consumption and expels it through the asshole. OK, lets change that to ‘anus’. And let us adopt a common noun by calling folk who do a lot of farting around ‘fart-knockers.’

I am sure that all of us do a lot of farting around, day in and day out. There is a frightening larger, even cosmic, world out there replete with dangers and our fear of death. And we have no viable solutions to propose, so in our despair, we fart around. And to extend this metaphorical use, our continual farting around emits the foul odor of our desperations and arch-backed defensiveness.

It might surprise you to hear me say that Christian faith—properly construed—presupposes that farting around is a given human condition wherever and whenever. And I do not mean that we are all fart-knockers in the biological sense, but in the sociopolitical—and thereby also ‘theological’ sense: we all fart around so much that we become immune to the foul odor of our indifference to the overwhelming evidence of the violence that permeates our everyday worlds.

I know that many of my friends/readers are students of human history and have sometimes become aghast and overwhelmed with the sheer fact of the incessant violence and warfare that is at the center of all human history. The church’s entrance on that scene some two thousand years ago seems to have been unsuccessful in eradicating or just diminishing that violence. In point of historical fact, groups claiming to be the ‘church of Jesus Christ’ and referring to themselves as ‘Christians’ have little consistency in their discourses about that unending and death-dealing violence and have almost no common set of violence-reducing practices. Defend yourself by attaining superior instruments of destructive force.

To be more particular, here in the USA ‘Christians’ can be found on all sides of the political and social discourses and practices about violence, its root causes, its consequences, and proposals for reducing violence. Put graphically, then, Christians in America are in fact practicing ‘fart-knockers’ and are often proud of that fact and they will kill or imprison anyone who disagrees. Fart knockers are notoriously vulnerable to fear of the stranger, whose farting seems foul and polluted. But often card-caring fart-knockers just leave-it-all-to-the-devil.

And I confess that I am a card-caring fart-knocker who fusses and complains about the odor of violence and death but still cannot do the complaining without acknowledging my own fart-knocking shadow side.

Having given expression to these scatological proclivities of our lives, I found some newspaper articles this morning in the NYTimes to be a challenge to my farting around. Hope you might find them helpful.

Thomas Friedman, well-known author and columnist, writes too clearly and directly for those of us inclined to farting around about Israel and Palestinian hostilities.

Roger Cohen on Gaza is trenchant.

Thomas Edsall just insists on rubbing our noses in controversial facts about our political pretenses in America in which our high-minded muting of farting around might be dangerous.

There are few columnists of a liberal inclination who are more consistently preposterous and given to fart-knocking than Maureen Dowd, but the following little gem is redolent.

Always welcome feedback.



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Reader Responses

Kevin Tully

responded on 08/07/14

Pretty much right on for an old fart.

Tom W. Boyd

responded on 08/09/14

Since retirement I have done a bit more farting around than I did before. Mostly it has involved trying to become accustomed to retirement. As for fart-knocking, I am an expert, especially in response to enemies of the human family (of which every blessed one of us is a member).

I appreciate your use of the “vernacular,” as it were, in addressing your interests and concerns. We’ve had enough sanitized language. My only recommendation is that we use the language for salient purposes and not simply to fill the air with expletives.

On this point, have you read philosopher Hsarry G. Frankfurt’s (Princeton) little book, “On Bullshit.” I found it an inspiration.



Charles Ragland

responded on 08/14/14

Joe, thank you for the challenge to ruminate on these varied, valuable, and even whimsical insights you have made available to us. Seems to me it is sometimes difficult to outwardly distinguish between farting around behavior (prompted by hopeless despair)and embracing patience (prompted by trust in God’s providence).