Michael Battalio

Monday, July 09, 2007

Serious conversations… (part 2)

A bit of a disclaimer, this is the first in series of serious blog posts about religion and philosophy. If you have ever chatted with me about philosophy and religion and very much disagree, be prepared for that to continue.
These are my responses (Edited, of course, to offend as few people as possible; although offense is inevitable with me.) from a conversation I am having with an atheist friend of mine about the meaning of life, consciousness, physics, the kitchen sink, religion and a couple of moral issues thrown in to boot.
Before every single religious person starts chomping at the bit, let me say this is not an argument about whether there is a God. This is more philosophical in nature. Also let me say that my unnamed friend is one of the most moral, responsible and decent people I have ever met, so no one take the high ground until you’ve read the entire series, and still don’t take it then either. This second entry is about the use of profanity.

A discussion of cussing can become very complicated because it has to do with religion, emotion, etymology, culture and an assortment of other disciplines I can't come up with off the top of my head. I think I've been able to get away with never cussing because I'm not a very angry person. There have only been a couple of times in my life where I've been really angry. I have just never had the need to cuss. I find it worrisome, though, that society finds it more and more necessary to use cussing as filler words. It's really odd though; even I'll admit that a joke becomes funnier if a couple of cuss words are thrown in the right places. I have no idea why that is. (Does anyone out there have a reason for this phenomena?)
I really can't find anything that makes cussing improper other than religion, and that can be tied to culture again. I know the Catholic church believes cussing to be any phrase that demeans a person, so if I call you stupid, that’s cussing. It’s an extreme that I’m sure everyone finds difficult.
I still can’t figure out why it is I don’t cuss. (in the societal sense, not the Catholic church sense; I call people stupid all the time) There are many times where the word will pop into my head to use as filler for a joke, and I know the joke will be funnier if I put it in. I simply can’t make myself say the word. It isn’t family influences; my mom and dad cuss just as much as any other adults. I have even caught my little brother cussing from time to time. All of my close friends cuss. Most of the teachers I’m friends with cuss. And I can’t think of a single person whom I look up to in a religious sense that doesn’t have the occasional (not sometimes not occasional) profanity slip, including many a priest. If it isn’t religion and it isn’t culture or family, what is it? The best reason I can come up with is two fold. Most of the adults in my life when I was very little did a very good job instilling the “badness” of cussing. Being an impressionable child I took it as truth. The reason everyone else eventually figured out there is nothing wrong with cussing and I didn’t is because I had, or have as the case may be, a twisted, almost grotesque, need to be different and better than everyone else. Since from childhood I “knew” cussing was bad, my inner desire to be better than everyone else filled in the gap where I would have given up on keeping a cussless vocabulary. And now it has become force of habbit.
Before I end I’d like to comment on the meaning behind the word. It is not the meaning of a cuss word more than it’s feeling represented by the word that is to some degree reprehensible. It’s the feeling inside the person that gives the word meaning. This is the reason that as society progress and regresses “improper” words change. For instance, not so long ago children’s ears would be covered if someone said dang, shoot, heck, or darn or any of a number of other words that people, including myself, use to replace their “stronger” (by today’s standards at least) counterparts. Language continues to evolve and grow as the society driving it grows as well. It wouldn’t surprise me if before I die I end up saying words that are currently bleeped on tv simply because no one considers them cuss words anymore. As for now, there is no point in trying to do something that I don’t really want to do, so cuss words still are still left out of my reach.

Next, a bit of talk on organized religion…

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