@ bob:

Theater Prof I had defined art as “the selected exaggeration of life”.

That sounds familiar:

Wit is nature to best advantage dressed/What oft was thought but ne'er so well expressed.

Alexander Pope, c. 1730

@ strangelet:

Colin has already pointed out to you that voting for an Islamic constitution is not a problem unless you believe that Islam is a problem. You seem to need reminding of that.

Everything else in your comment—and I do mean absolutely everything—is either a flat assertion, a questionable opinion, or plain crystal-ball reading. For instance, you have no conclusive evidence that COIN has failed. It does seem to me obvious that you would not be displeased if and when it becomes clear that it has failed; but only a prophet or a cast-iron ideologue would claim to know with such vehement certainty what the conditions will be in Iraq or Afghanistan 20 years from now. I don't think you're a prophet. To take one example of many that could be cited, look at South Korea in 1954 and South Korea today. Any resemblance is superficial. Who is to say that there won't be a US presence in Iraq in 50 years. Iraq was a highly secularized society before the US invasion. It just wasn't democratic.

You want to debate this or that topic pertinent to Iraq and Afghanistan, fine, although this thread is probably not the one for it. I'll indulge a bit of modest fortune-telling myself. . . . Ah yes, the mists are parting. There will be counter-arguments for anything you have to say. To top that, you won't like them much.

Refrain from confusing the present with a possible future that exists in your head. Like the rest of us, you're simply going to have to wait and see.

@ bob:

You make an interesting and hilarious point. Why not throw in "fuck you," too?

Still, I am seriously skeptical that in any of the expressions cited, a reference to actual "shit," "piss," or "come," is really intended, especially the last, where semen is not being connoted even for emphasis. Several of those words function mainly as emphatics and have about as much specific meaning as "fuck" in "What the fuck is going on?" the "fuck" of which strikes me as almost empty of meaning.

As to the human condition, what does it say about your human condition that in carrying on a conversation with a stranger you would be unlikely to use "piss" or "shit" or "fuck"? Or maybe I'm jumping to a conclusion. I sincerely hope not. Doesn't such self-censorship indicate a natural recognition of the simple dignity of the person you're talking to? His human dignity?* In speaking of the human condition might we more appropriately look towards his dignity?

I recall reading about some study at some medical-school teaching hospital in which the use of bad language by staff around comatose patients was studied (the staff did not know they were being recorded). The frequent use of such words, sometimes directed at the patient—to be fair, usually in jest—was startling. The patient being comatose, concluding that the staff assumed he lacked his distinctively human faculty of comprehending words is unavoidable, I believe.

*dignity < L., dignus: "meet and just."

@ Rex Caruthers:

You remind me of the character Strephon in Swift’s Poem,”The Lady’s Dressing Room”, who is amazed at the fact of Female Defecation

RCAR I am disgusted that you would say that—Oh, I mean, of course, I am amazed that you would say that, an experience of amazement and one of disgust being so readily confused. They're practically synonyms. It happens all the time and seems to have happened to you.

@ strangelet:

Eventually the american people are going to realize that 5000 young american soldiers died for NOTHING.

That is an appalling assertion, judging someone's death as worthless. I can only assume that that is pique and cannot for the life of me see how anyone, but especially a sincere Sufi, would come within a mile of so heartlessly final a pronouncement on the value of a human life. Those soldiers did not die while committing a felony, though even there I would hesitate to judge, but while participating in a duly authorized conflict, supported and superintended by a duly elected Congress and Executive, all that apart from a consideration of the particular circumstances of their deaths, which I would think is the minimum they are owed.

@ CK MacLeod:

What could be more universal and human, and also more “last” and “least” than urine?

Well, what about the gelatinous material of which the human brain is composed? Bovine, equine, and canine urine, the urine of rodents and reptiles, of birds and bats—none of those differ in any important ways from human urine, so how exactly is urine in any context apart, perhaps, from deliberate insult, so special to humans or so "universally human"? Serrano the artist looks at the man Christ, who, as the authentic Catholic you seem to suggest he is, might be expected to know that "He was true God and true man," and what does he see? Christ's kidneys. Wonderful. That reminds me of an adage: When a pickpocket meets a saint, all the pickpocket sees is the saint's pockets.

Certainly man is fallen in Judeo-Christianity. The world, however, is just as certainly not: "[God] saw that it was good." The verse in Genesis in which the Elohist warns that "he who sheds man's blood by the sword, by the sword shall his blood be shed" is immediately preceded by the verse "Let us make man in our image." So then, by the theology seemingly imputed to Serrano, the divine stamp impressed on man, whatever that means, discourages murder but not a thorough dousing in piss.

The Biblical notion that man was formed from the dust seems to me to cover all the bases without luridly dwelling on the viscera, which are not representative of man. It's comical even to suggest that they are. The brain, the heart, the kidneys—Each was formed from dust. Serrano's theology is tendentiously juvenile, to the extent that a theological statement was his intention at all, which is open to question.

Judging by the entirety of his oeuvre, in which he elsewhere uses blood, semen, and feces, Serrano seems to be expanding on the notion that any material can be used in the service of art, an idea originating with Duchamp as early as "The Large Glass," I believe, which is not particularly original or interesting but moderately disgusting. Of course that is my response to it as a work of art, which is what "Piss Christ" is or at least purports to be. Others may and do have different responses, to which they are welcome. For myself, I am unmoved by piss and shit in whatever guise they are offered for my appreciation. Further, I ask the question, which I will stipulate in advance is a Western, Christian, pre-duchampian situated query: What could it mean that Michelangelo, Leonardo, a reprobate like Caravaggio, Corot, the first modern naturalist, as well as Courbet, Monet, Manet, Pissaro, Degas, Renoir, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Picasso, Rodin, Giacometti, and Matisse—those are just some highlights, mind you—why did not one of them ever think to work in piss when it came to depicting Jesus Christ? How could they have overlooked the plain artistic opportunities of "come"? Why oh why, even once, just once, in 10-thousand or so works of art, did they never even try to exploit the manifold possibilities of shit? Is there a warmer earth tone than that of shit, I ask you? Perhaps, sunk in convention, it simply never occurred to them, or perhaps poverty of imagination can be discerned, their other achievements notwithstanding. It's a puzzler.