Michael Burns
MDI Contributor

I was a curious, mischievous, adventurous little boy who played, wanted to have fun, and hoped to get away with shit. When I didn’t get away with shit, I got consequences: from Dad, teachers, neighbors, then when older, police and wives. I learned at an early age how to protect my fragile ego by covering up the thoughts, feelings, and actions that I knew would not meet the approval of my parents.

Mom and Dad encouraged, mentored, and programmed me into a bullshit way of being: be a cute, well-behaved, polite, considerate, talented, and good little boy. Yea, I was successful being a bullshitter. My sisters could certainly attest to that.

I couldn’t always maintain the bullshit facade as an adolescent boy. Occasionally my true self leaked out when I wasn’t in the presence of Dad, teachers, etc.


  • When I hit my older sister with a toy gun (which I did get away with because she got blamed for something when she told the parents)
  • Taking carrots from the old neighbor’s garden (getting busted by her other side neighbor, gruff, cigar smoking Pete with a dark beard who came over and told Dad while I hid and listened)
  • Saying the “N word,” when I had no clue what that word meant, in front of our live-in black nanny (she had worked for my parents when they lived in Nassau, Bahamas, and stayed with them in the move to the San Francisco East Bay)
  • Wrestling with another boy in 6th grade class when the teacher was out of the room
  • Getting busted for drinking beer “hidden” in the hills

This bullshit way of being – when relating to and communicating with Mom and Dad – continued and even blossomed when I went away to college and had, almost, carte blanche for messing around and messing up. Not living at home was an amazing invitation to do things my way.

Mature and Immature, and owning it.

Mom saved a lot of my correspondence to them while I was away from home. I have always been pretty good at expressing my bullshit in writing. I re-read them all recently and marvel at how articulate the bullshit was: “Lots of school work to do, need to move out of the dorms so I can study better in an apt with my friends, keeping the place clean.”


In the musings I composed when away, I saw the budding of a new context in the bullshit, not just I’m “a good little boy” growing up. After college, my quest for truth about life and self increased in conscious awareness, so much so I realized that is what I was really doing: seeking, exploring.

With aging and an accumulation of experiences came the beginning of maturity, and some wisdom. The childhood bullshit of “be a cute, well-behaved, polite, considerate, talented, and good little boy” evolved into philosophical and spiritual bullshit.

The source of childhood bullshit came from parents and a subconscious, intuitive, instinctual place for ego protection. As an adult the source of my bullshit was (is) a conscious quest for self-discovery, relevance and purpose. I still have whispering voices using the childhood bullshit tape to look good, get approval, earn praise, but the adult voices are much louder and predominant.

As a retired old fart, I want to be seen as philosophical, spiritual, wise, and I don’t care so much if I don’t act in ways that are nice or polite. It’s OK if I am not seen as “such a nice guy.” I am a nice guy … and I’m also a friggin’ jerk.

I have such a broad bandwidth of ways to be, feelings to have, lessons learned.

The nice guy and jerk are at home, and are brothers to me as The King, Warrior, Lover, Magician, and all their shadows. And that ain’t no bullshit.

2 thoughts on “Bullshit”

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