I have no idea what my brain does when I’m asleep. Occasionally it leads me to some strange discoveries. For example, up until today I’d always assumed “Nonchalance,” the name of the studio behind The Jejune Institute, was something they’d made up for the game’s second chapter. My own dreams proved this to be incorrect. How? We’re getting to that.
Far too early this morning I woke up after a dream, grabbed my phone, and typed something into Google. I can’t remember the dream nor the search keywords, but the results included this music page on Nonchalance’s website. (Why some of the music is listed as by “JBH & Bobby Peru” is beyond me, since those are the same person.)
To me the most interesting part about the page wasn’t the music itself, it was that it represented some relic from a previous version of the Nonchalance.com website I’d never encountered before — it predated The Jejune Institute. Needless to say, I couldn’t get back to sleep; I’d stumbled down this temporal rabbit hole and needed to know more.
While many links on the page now redirect elsewhere, Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine came to the rescue. For those unfamiliar with the service, they’ve been capturing publicly available websites for decades and storing them online. You can go back and see how your favorite websites looked back in the day, even if they’re long since defunct.
After poking around the archives of Nonchalance’s website, most of the content on early versions of the site covers their other activities, including art installations, musings on design, and related projects like Oaklandish. Only later versions of the site make reference to the “game” project they’d become best known for (click the hyperlinked word “the” in the previous sentence to see what I mean.)
The most unexpected revelation hidden in these forgotten pages is the first entry in the website’s blog (scroll all the way down) in a post from 2007, about a year before The Jejune Institute opened its doors to the public.
The post reads in part:
Picture in your mind a cartoon character sleepwalking. Observe as they stutter, step, and stumble blindly out of bed, down the stairs and out the front door on to a busy street. They narrowly dodge impending danger without effort or awareness. Cars race by, they are turned around in a revolving door, and after the languid adventure they are somehow returned to bed unharmed. It’s a certain attribute the cartoon character possesses: to be able to stumble through life with nary a care, prodigiously protected and provided for by the invisible hand of good fortune. This ability is called Divine Nonchalance.
And so; our titled is lifted from this phrase, which may have its origins in modern Tarot: it appears on the card of The Fool. It signifies a certain blessed carelessness, a freedom from inhibition that sparks and inspires creativity. Long ago our local clique adopted the phrase to describe certain peoples who possessed the gift. If you possess it, as visionary artists often do, than you too may be one of the Divine Nonchalants.
BUT BEWARE: like any other gift, it comes with a price. The special power of Nonchalance is not found on the card of the King, or of the Sun… it is found on the card of The Fool. Clowns, wise guys, drunks and musicians are the salty sort of down-trodden folk who usually possess this super power in spades. And of course; cartoon characters. This special breed of people all share the wonderful attribute. It’s a shame they’ll never quite know what to do with it. By definition the Nonchalant is wonderfully scattered, and lacking in all direction. The ride is fantastic, but it only leads back to where we began.
It is appropriate then that we put the title to use. Nonchalance.org is a small looking glass into the creative lives of a few east bay souls. Here is where we document our works, make audacious statements of purpose, post exhibit schedules, engage with theory, trade intelligence, and celebrate our love for the past, present and future of this glorious lifetime.
A slightly different version of the Divine Nonchalance definition can be found on this page from a 2008 snapshot of Nonchalance.com
If any of this definition sounds familiar it’s because “Commander 14,” played by Harry S. Robins, read a nearly identical script on a certain pirate radio station in Dolores Park in the second chapter of The Jejune Institute. You can listen to the full broadcast here. The part similar to the above quote starts at about 1:20. But really, you should listen to the entire thing; it’s less than an hour long and it’s quite funny. Listen to it at Dolores Park if you want the most authentic experience.
It’s amazing what mind-blowing mysteries we can accidentally unlock in the middle of the night. Assuming there’s no microwave harassment, of course.