The Folly of Old Adages

The Folly of Old Adages

Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me. This was an old English children’s rhyme, which was designed to persuade the child to ignore the name-calling, to refrain from physical retaliation, and to remain calm and good-natured. (taken from Wikipedia). It is reported to have originated in the 1860s and to what success it has had over the last couple hundred years I am not so sure of. I was certainly taught it at an early age as a way of controlling my own behavior. However it seems somewhat sadistic to me where I am picturing myself getting the shit beat out of me as a young child with the bully name-calling me at the same time, all the while I am reciting this pathetic adage in my mind, thinking that makes me a better person. Or perhaps it was designed to help me escape the beating. Or not be emotionally fucked up as a result of the beating and the name-calling. Think again old adage. Think again.

In my descent into darkness I learned one very, very powerful lesson. I learned that anyone can beat the shit out of anyone – that wasn’t what mattered in this dog eat dog world. What mattered and what held the real power was words. And I was learning how powerful and how harmful words could really be. I may not raise my fist and seek to beat anyone up but what I was now learning was how to use my grasp of the English language to land deadly blows, eroding and destroying people in the process. It was manipulative, strategic, and vile. I was cruel and I left a long line of victims behind me whenever someone would get in my way. I embraced a broken morality, meaning whatever was right for me was right. If I sensed injustice, whether to me or to someone else and I happened to give a fuck in that moment I would unleash a barrage of words upon that person that would tear them to shreds. And I don’t mean profanity. Anyone can swear. Swearing only accents the point, like an exclamation point at the end of a sentence. What mattered was the sentence. And I was developing some fucking powerful sentences.

This wasn’t simple like calling someone fat. This was like when my mom said to me in front of another family member that when I turn sideways in a room my butt would hit the wall. The context is lost but the impact is felt. It leaves its victim thinking through what was said, dissecting each word, the tone, the context, the intent. The person becomes consumed by the offender’s words, assigning meaning and perspective in order to understand it, minimize its impact, rationalize its meaning, anything but accept it for what it was. And that is what I thrived on. To figure out how to use my words to destroy others, regardless of age, gender, or relationship.

I would start with my posse. My three closest friends. Although I didn’t go to church I relentlessly attacked my friend’s choices in attending church. Although I did not understand the claims behind evolution, as I was fully immersed in eastern mysticism by this point, I would mock my friend’s religious beliefs that contradicted evolution. In that moment, my own moral code dictated that monkeys were right and the concept of god was baloney and therefore I made it a mission to tear apart their own religious experiences, causing them to question their faith and their very existence.

I then moved onto social structures and rudimentary organizational structures. I challenged all forms of perceived authority. I sought to expose their flaws, exploiting the perceived grasps on power, like an early version of the now popular use of the Guy Fawkes mask. A substitute teacher would take over the class for the day and as they struggled to put in place some sense of control in their infancy as a teacher, falling back on clunky antiquated control techniques, I would stand up at my desk and verbally challenge the teacher, often launching into a mini-soapbox oration, reducing them to a blustering fool who mimics the Queen of Hearts calling out, “Off with his head”, as I was unceremoniously dumped into the hallway, ejected from class once again. In the later grades of school I had at least one teacher petition the school administration to have me forcibly and most permanently removed from school.

I wish I could say that my efforts were seen as being just as poetic as the opening sequence in 1997 “The Saint” with Simon Templar’s childhood performance, but they were far more narcissistic. Perhaps, just perhaps, they were well on their way to becoming something out of “Mommy Dearest”.

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