Sunday, February 7, 2010

curses, foiled again!

The first time I came home from school and uttered the word "fuck" in my mother's presence, she sat me down and led me through the litany of curse words. She gave me the literal and figurative uses to which they could be put. As a second-grader, I found it embarrassing as hell ... I didn't want to know all those literal meanings: I wanted to strut my stuff. She concluded her lecture by telling me, "You can use those words with your friends and you can use them in front of me, but you may not use them in front of my friends." As an imperfect yardstick, it wasn't bad.

As a language lover, I am entranced by the high notes and low, the symphony and sometimes cacophony that language can create. What a song! And curse words are a vivid part of that symphony ... not the only part and not a part to be used idly, but a vivid part in much the same way that the piccolos might be part of an orchestra.

The comedian George Carlin once had a terrific riff on the seven dirty words you couldn't say on TV. They pretty much covered the bases of the cuss-word universe ... which is fairly limited if you examine it. His seven words, which he strung together in a fashion that made them sound like one, great, silly word were: Shitpissfuckcuntcocksuckermotherfuckertits.

The morally rigid, school teachers and instructing parents can come down pretty hard on curses. Buddhism has an invitation to "right speech" and many may interpret that invitation as excluding foul-mouthed exercises. And offending others is not terribly considerate ... so we get back to my mother's dictum of not using such words in front of "my friends."

But besides uttering what are called obscenities, the word "curse" has other meanings. It may mean an affliction. It may mean an evil spell. It may mean an appeal to some higher being to create a malevolent outcome for someone else. And sometimes it may mean the monthly cramps women are forced to endure.

"Curse" has a lot of meanings.

I guess anyone might sum up the curses in his or her life in different ways, but I have a feeling everyone has felt cursed from time to time -- as if there were some inescapable burden threatening to annihilate any chance at happiness or peace or relief. And such curses are enough to make anyone pray like a saint or curse like a trooper. Needling, wracking, consuming ... curses.

I haven't got the energy to explain it, but this morning I woke up with the thought strutting its stuff in my mind ... the curse I might point to in my own life ... the real horror ... the vivid knives of hell...the truly serious curse among curses...

And that curse summed itself up in two words:





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