What is the Room of Shattered Glass? It’s a metaphor. The Room is the home of the human soul; the Shattered Glass the ruins of what that soul once was. In paradise it was perfect, and perfectly in God. It was a tall, shining, beautiful mirror. And then original sin smashed it. Now we must try to put the pieces back together, though we will never fully do so unless we win heaven. In this blog I will examine these pieces, wherever I can find them. Enjoy.
Have you ever heard of 3OH!3? Yes, it’s spelled that way. I know at least one of my readers is out of my generation, so I’ll explain before I get to the main point. 3OH!3 is the stage name for a rapping duo that’s extremely popular. The beats are insanely catchy. That’s one part of their popularity; the second part is some sincerely clever rhyming; the third part is the recurring appearance of sex and swearing.
So why talk about them? They have this song called “My First Kiss” that I want to make a contrast with. Below I've embedded the song's music video. (WARNING: EXPLICIT CONTENT)
Now here's a different clip...
The second video is from The Princess Bride. If you haven't seen the whole film, you are in a critical state of cultural deprivation and you need to watch it immediately after you finish this post.
Think about these two videos for a minute. You see kisses in both them. They way they’re portrayed says something about kissing, and by extension love, and by extension ourselves.
Which kiss looks happy? Which kiss looks beautiful?
It seems a couple has decided to leave the fate of their unborn child... to an Internet poll. "Give Birth" or "Have An Abortion". I have no way of telling whether they mean it, but I will not risk a life and assume they don't.
Puritans vs. Playboys. This has changed our nation in a way I find comparable to the Civil War, or World War II. From what I understand, it got started in the 1950s, when Marilyn Monroe took the nation by storm. Rising with her was a young publisher named Hugh Hefner. It was a racy centerpiece of Monroe in Playboy that shot him into infamy. I think of that magazine every time I think about the sexual revolution. Monroe, Hefner, Kinsey, and all the other people who got it started were fighting against the old moral order, whether they meant it or not.
Clearly, they won. I'm assuming you're familiar with the popular culture in the U.S.A. of 2010. If you aren't, watch the film “Superbad”. Even better, take my word that my country is drenched in sex.
It's almost a total 180-degree spin. Only decades ago, husbands and wives on television shows slept in separate beds. Now unmarried couples make out in swimsuits on CBS. There seem to be two camps of sexuality in American history: harsh restriction, and total license. Puritans and Playboys.
Neither. I’ve thought about both attitudes and decided neither is healthy. When I was young, I would blow up when my father showed a PG-13 movie. I even deleted a song when I heard the lyrics “I want to touch you”. I had a pistol of righteousness, and I was trigger-happy like no other. Now that I look back at those days, and at the sexual revolution as I understand it, I don’t ever want to be a Puritan. Sex cannot be repressed. It is integral to who we are as humans, and men and women. I can’t hide the way I feel when I see a woman. It’s tantamount to denying I have a soul. My sexuality is too deeply grounded in my identity to ignore. To be a real human, I must embrace sex, and be unafraid to talk about it. I refer all opponents to former Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body.
Now, about Playboy. Their attitude won’t do either. Expressing your sexuality does not mean going out and sleeping with twenty different people in as many hours. I certainly don’t blame the people who do that, depending on what they know. For people that are totally ignorant, confused, or mislead about morality and sexuality, it may be better to have sex than deny their natural desires to do it.
But that rests heavily on individual cases, and I’m not convinced there’s enough of those to convince me to support promiscuity as a whole. In fact, I denounce any sex outside of marriage. I have read things, heard things, sensed things in my own blood; sex is an act of utter euphoria. It is a connection that should be the pinnacle of any union between a man and a woman. And if it’s a pinnacle, then it must be saved for… well… the pinnacle! For marriage, the pinnacle of love! And not a moment before.
Do you agree with me? Whether or not you do, question the things I just said. I firmly believe them to be true. But I am human, and I can fail. I need your help in figuring this out. You need mine, too. We all need each other’s help. For this is a debate we cannot abandon. Over the past fifty or so years, the United States of American has opened wide the floodgates of sexuality. The duty is ours, the children of the aftermath, to say where the U.S.A. will go from there.
What we say about sex, we say so much about ourselves that we might as well be talking about ourselves. When we speak of how we treat sex, we are thus charting the course of souls, and by extension a nation.
“I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said- "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert... Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my Works, Ye Mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
Good old Percy Shelley. Those Romantics, love ‘em or hate ‘em, knew how to seize their readers’ imaginations. Well, not all of them, but they sure have mine. This poem is a striking metaphor for the futility of pride. In post-modern English, I’m saying the poem disses on people who are trying to look more important than they actually are, and the way it does that is really cool. I love the grandeur of the imagery, and what happens to it. The “vast and trunkless legs of stone”, the “sneer of cold command”, and the “King of Kings” make my vision soar, and then plunge to the ground on reading those cold, cold words: “Nothing beside remains.”
If I ever put on airs, please shove that poem down my throat.
Not to be a hypocrite, but there are others who might benefit from such a treatment. Where are the modern Ozymandias’ in our world? You know they’re out there. Think for a moment. Where, in American society, or anywhere in the world, can we find a fellow human being who has crafted an image that makes him or her look greater than who he or she actually is?
I’m going to answer with my own poem. A parody, actually. Sorry if this seems a roundabout way to say what I think, but it’s too much fun for this English major to resist…
Bear with me if you don’t like this title. I seriously want to step away from my inclinations and think about vulgar words. Are there times when they can be honest?
This used to be an easy question for me. Growing up in a squeaky-clean, super-Catholic homeschooled family, I had a mouth more devoid of curses than G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra is devoid of brains. High school and college have changed that. A lot. I stopped homeschooling in the eighth grade, and have been exposed ever since. And I’ve used it enough myself to ask serious questions, based in experience.
So can swear words be sincere? By this I ask if it can actually be a legitimate expression, under whatever circumstances.
After thought, I have decided that there are times that we “have” to swear. By this I mean when someone is under so much pressure, and he/she must let it out without throttling someone, and the first word to come to their mind is, “S---!”. I find the latter option more agreeable than the latter. Total control, obviously, would be best, but we are weak, and there are times when we simply cannot endure another second without venting. See Black Hawk Down or World Trade Center if you don’t know what I’m talking about.
Of course, there are times when we say it without a thought. Like if a friend sneaks up behind you and grabs you. Or when you’re painting on the roof and you nearly fall off. Surprise doesn’t leave much time for choosing words. Neither does fear. During my first driving lesson, I said a string of things that made me glad it was a driving instructor in the passenger seat and not my mother. I was terrified. My shaky hands were on a wheel controlling one ton of metal and rocket fuel. One false move and I was going to hurt something. Blindly, I babbled vulgarities. Literally I could not control myself until when my teacher asked me why I was swearing.
On top of all that, many people don’t mean the meaning of what they say. If you break my ribs with a sledgehammer, and I yell, “F--- you!”, I’m not commanding you to fornicate with yourself, which is the most sense one can make from the phrase. I’m saying that you just hit me and I’m in pain and I hate your guts and will rip them out the moment I have the strength to walk. Think about “h--- yeah” or “d--- right”. They don’t make any particular sense. We’re adding them for emphasis, almost like one would add Tabasco to a pizza.
That’s been a convincing case for me, but it doesn’t change one thing. You can’t change what the words mean. Only a whole group of English users over time can do that, and I don’t think it’s been done yet for curse words. As things stand right now, “s---“ still means dung, “f---“ refers to carnal knowledge, “g-d---“ still invoke God’s eternal punishment, and so on.
American society over time chose these words as its bad words, and this is important to our psyche. We’ve been trained that these are the words we’re not meant to say. Even in a secularized world, films still get PGs or PG-13s for “d---“ and “g-d---“, last time I looked. So the effect when you say them is that you are breaking a moral law. Which is still true, anyway, looking at what the words mean. Double whammy.
Plus, there many other words to express your frustration. As I said, this requires self-control. And for that, you need to grow into someone better. Deepen your reason; deepen your faith, too, if you’re Christian. If the lack of a better you is what makes you swear, odds are you want to stop swearing to get the better you.
I conclude that swearing can be honest. Sometimes. As an understandable mistake. But it must be a mistake that is understood, regretted, and detested. Constantly it must be fought. Ideally, you’d never say them, not even once. Control your tongue and you control your mind; control your mind and you control everything else.