Congratulations to D.W. March, who'll be receiving the Nuked edition of ICP's latest Bang Pow Boom for the essay reprinted, unedited, below.
When I Heard the Learn’d Juggalo
The Insane Clown Posse song “Miracles” can be seen as a modern interpretation of Walt Whitman’s classic poem “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer”. Each can be seen on the surface as railing against intellect. However each can also be appreciated as something deeper, an appreciation for the natural beauty of our environment.
While Whitman may have been an edgy poet for his time, he does not use profanity to make his point. Instead, “[H]ow soon unaccountable I became tired and sick” represents his frustration at trying to examine nature from an intellectual standpoint. Shaggy 2 Dope of the Insane Clown Posse is much more succinct, claiming “Y'all motherfuckers lying, and getting me pissed.” It would seem that in Shaggy’s case, ignorance is not bliss. In any case, the sentiment is the same: trying to examine nature from a classroom point of view is boring to say the least.
What is most important to the authors of these verses is the raw beauty of nature, which can only be experienced directly. In this sense, aspects of nature that we take for granted can be viewed as miracles. As Shaggy says “Water, fire, air and dirt… Fucking magnets, how do they work?” These are prosaic elements that we don’t think twice about most days (excepting perhaps fire if in large quantity and/or in close proximity to anything we value) but seen individually each contains a multitude of wonders. Whitman describes the moist night air as being “mystical”, turning a soggy evening into a mystery of the imagination.
It is easy to mistake the sentiment of these verses for simple anti-intellectualism. Whitman was accused of such by no less than Isaac Asimov, who responded to the poem as it if was a personal attack. Asimov even used his essay Science and Beauty to counterattack as if there was something deeply wrong with Whitman’s desire to go outside and experience nature rather than learning about it in a classroom. As for the Insane Clown Posse, they will happily go out of their way to offend anyone, intellectuals being no exception. For example, in Assassins Shaggy describes terrorizing a teacher that gave him bad grades, concluding with “I knew she was a snitch so I cut out her tongue.” But it should be remembered in both cases that these verses are not intended to be an attack on science or intellect but rather an appreciation of the inexplicable, miraculous beauty of nature.