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This is Freedom Essay 47
Humour and swearing explained
Written by Jeremy Griffith, 2017
As has been explained in all these Freedom Essays, the overall essential feature of the human journey since we first became conscious is that of the accumulation of knowledge at the expense of our innocent soul—the more we searched for knowledge, the more upset and soul-destroyed we became. That is not to say that we didn’t learn to restrain our upset, to ‘civilise’ it—but underneath that disguise, we were becoming more and more angry, egocentric and alienated.
Civility certainly had an important role to play—it has been a marvellous tool for helping to restrain upset and allow individuals of various states of self-corruption to co-exist (see , for an explanation of differences in self-corruption); however, it obviously necessitated repressing or bottling-up our frustrations and angers, which produced yet another problem of how then to relieve that pent-up state. Our inability to be honest about our internal upset (which required the redeeming understanding of the human condition that is presented in ) meant we had to somehow learn to valve off and relieve ourselves in ways that weren’t destructive of those around us. As described in , some so-called ‘primitive’ peoples used mask ceremonies to exorcise their true, upset condition, while others, including the ‘!kung’ Bushmen, used such measures as fatigue-inducing, soul-accessing dances.
The origin of our developed sense of humour stems from the same source. Once it is understood how false resigned humans became, the source of so much of our sophisticated sense of humour becomes very clear (see for explanation of the process of Resignation). For the most part, adults maintain a carefully constructed facade of denial, but every now and then a mistake is made—we ‘slip-up’—and the truth of our real situation is revealed, providing the basis for humour. Situations occurred where the extreme denial, self-deception, delusion, artificiality, alienation became apparent and transparent, and in those moments the truth of that immense falseness was exposed for what it really was—so farcical it was funny; a ‘joke’, in fact. For instance, when someone tripped or fell over, or had their ‘bluff’ called, it was humorous because suddenly their carefully constructed, civilised image of togetherness disintegrated.
We take our developed sense of humour for granted now as being a natural part of our make-up, but it follows that there was a time, prior to becoming alienated and false, when the only comic situations were those that children—and, as has been witnessed in research situations, bonobos—find amusing, such as when a harmless trick is played on someone. The power of consciousness makes it possible to recognise and even create such silly and funny situations that delight our emerging minds, but it is only when the absurdly dishonest situation of the resigned, alienated human-condition-afflicted state emerged that the extremely ridiculous, fraudulent situations appeared in human life to laugh about and make fun of. (from )
Swearing has been another way of tearing down and breaking free from the extreme dishonesty of our condition. Indeed, it is a stark measure of just how dishonest humans have become that we don’t even have an everyday word for all the evasions and dishonest denials and delusions we practise every minute of the day, except for the swear word ‘bullshit’, or ‘BS’ or ‘bull’ or ‘crap’! To understand why ‘fuck’ is such a powerful swear word we only have to recall the truth of what sex really is. As explained in , while sex at its noblest level was something that marvellously complemented the human journey and as such has truly been an act of love, it has, nevertheless, at base been about attacking innocence (which women represent) for innocence’s unjust condemnation of humans’ (especially men’s) lack of innocence. ‘Fuck’ means destroy or ruin, and what is being destroyed or ruined or sullied or degraded or violated is innocence or purity. Sex has been such a preoccupation of humans and yet everyone lives in denial of the truth that it is, at base, an attack on innocence. This makes sex one of the biggest lies and thus jokes of all, which is why using the word ‘fuck’ is such a powerful attack on the world of lies, and thus such a powerful swear word. (see & )
In the end though, while humour and swearing could relieve our pent-up frustrations, civilising our upset didn’t stop its development—it could only ever conceal and help contain it—and so it was inevitable that, as the corrupting search for knowledge continued, levels of upset were only going to escalate, so that today, underneath that highly sophisticated veneer of civility, we have become immensely embattled, saturated with upset, and thus absolutely despairing about our situation.
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In one sense the civilised state, which requires that humans avoid swearing, was marvellous because it made life bearable by concealing the ugliness of humans’ extremely false condition, but in another sense it made life unbearable because it hid the truth of humanity’s extremely false, pretentious and deluded condition. The importance of civility, therefore, depends on your position: do you want to contribute to the maintenance of the lie, or do you want to relieve the world of its lying?
The following comment about George Gurdjieff, a Russian philosopher who took on the world of denial, supports the civilised position: ‘In his writings he used both humour and vulgarity to stimulate man’s awareness of his own unworthiness and these “weapons” often detract from Gurdjieff’s reputation as a serious philosopher’ (Gurdjieff: An Approach to His Ideas, Michel Waldberg, 1989).
Prophets adopt the opposing position of relieving the world of its lying, and in doing so they are typically raw, defiant and irreverent—uncivilised. As it says about the defiant personality of prophets in the Bible, ‘zeal for your [denial-free] house consumes me’ (Psalm 69:9 & John 2:17). As was mentioned in F. Essay 39, prophets were ‘warlike’ rather than saintly, capable of being both sensitive and tough. They have to be sensitive enough to access the true world of the soul and tough enough to defy the all-dominating world of denial. Kahlil Gibran was quoted in that essay as saying, ‘Jesus was not a bird with broken wings; He was a raging tempest who broke all crooked wings. He feared not His persecutors nor His enemies. He suffered not before His killers. Free and brave and daring He was. He defied all despots and oppressors. He saw the contagious pustules and amputated them…He muted evil and He crushed Falsehood and He choked Treachery.’ In a tirade against the intellectuals of his day, Christ said, ‘You snakes! You brood of vipers!’, repeatedly adding, ‘Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites…you, blind guides!…You blind fools!’ (see Matt. 23).
While I am not defending public swearing because I view it as unnecessarily offensive to people not familiar with my unevasive paradigm, within the World Transformation Movement, where people understand what I have explained here about the honesty of swearing, it is justified and, in fact, a necessary tool for introducing an honest world. There are so few honest aspects of our evasive world, that I make use of any that are available.
For me, swearing signals to those listening that I am not party to the hypocritical world of denial. Many young adults in their late teens and early 20’s find relief from having the false world torn apart, for, as is explained in , having just left the pre-resigned state where they could see the world was utterly false, they are still resistant to adopting the artificial, monstrously egocentric resigned adult world of lies. In opening up the issue of the human condition, my fundamental task is to defy and expose the world of denial. I have to shatter the delusions and artificialities of that world.
The Scottish psychiatrist R.D. Laing, who is featured in the next , was a prophet who regularly used swearing to ‘shock…the established order, the fool living in ignorance of his own ignorance’ (R.D. Laing A Biography, Adrian Laing, 1994, p.133 of 248). The following is one sample of Laing’s use of swearing, which he is using to emphasise just how corrupted, and dishonest about being corrupted, humanity has become: ‘How do you plug a void plugging a void? How to inject nothing into fuck-all? How to come into a gone world? No piss, shit, smegma, come…[etc], will plug up the Hole. It’s gone past all that, that, all that last desperate clutch. Come into gone. I do assure you. The dreadful has already happened’ (The Politics of Experience and The Bird of Paradise, 1967, p.153 of 156).
Carl Jung was another prophet whose ‘language, which could be just as earthy as it was poetic, when he was roused in this profound regard was worthy of an inspired peasant, and words like “shitbags” and “pisspots” would roll from his lips in sentences of crushing correction’ (Sir Laurens van der Post, Jung and the Story of Our Time, 1976, p.220 of 275).
Even the great Australian educator and prophet Sir James Darling was not averse to using strong language, as this quote from a journalist who interviewed him records: ‘Indeed; Darling’s lengthy conversations during my visit revolved from intense thoughts on God, Socrates, Jung and the unconscious, to a joke with the copulating adjective rousingly pronounced’ (Janet Hawley, Sydney Morning Herald, Good Weekend mag. 19 Nov. 1988; see ).
Yes, swearing and humour have been invaluable tools in helping humanity cope with the torturous situation of having to continue to search for knowledge without being able to acknowledge its corrupting effects! Thank goodness that [email protected]#!ing search is now over!
In conclusion, this further passage from A Species In Denial is included as it shows my empathy with the non-conformist, irreverent, no-bullshit attitude of the Irish—which, as I explain in , probably befits my Irish and Welsh heritage.
For their part the Celtic Irish, Welsh and Scottish have contributed a ‘non-conformist’, ‘joyful and productive’ (from the 2001 documentary, The Sea Kingdoms) freshness to the world, qualities that have greatly complemented and assisted the endeavours of the English. There is an integrity about the Irish in particular that is admired throughout the world, to the extent that Ireland, or ‘I-love-you-land’ as I saw a Chinese woman refer to it on television, has become a place of pilgrimage for people from all over the world irrespective of their racial origins. In an upcoming essay in this book (A Species In Denial) titled The Demystification Of Religion, the section ‘Australia’s role in the world’ (see also ) emphasises the special contribution the Irish people have made to the world with their refusal to conform to the artificial, sophisticated and dishonest way of living. In terms of what was explained in the Resignation essay earlier, it is almost as if the Irish as a nation refused to accept resignation, to ‘grow up’, preferring to remain a somewhat mad ‘ship at sea’ (as mentioned, you can read about Resignation, including the ‘ship at sea’ strategy, in ). In comparison, the English applied their ‘cool and practical’ (The Sea Kingdoms) temperament to humanity’s fundamental task of accumulating knowledge using the relatively safe guise of eccentricity and ridiculous degrees of sophistication to valve-off the resultant corruption and angst. In their preference to stay ignorant and honest rather than become sophisticated and false, the Irish served to keep the English honest, preventing them from becoming too alienated from the soul’s true world. (You can read about different levels of alienation between races in .) Once when unloading my suitcase from a cab in an up-market part of London I was approached by a short man who smelt of alcohol. In a strong Irish accent he offered to carry my suitcase. When I said that I was happy to carry it myself he said, ‘That’s OK, you carry it but I’ll come along and you can still give me the tip.’ The logic was confusing but it was very amusing and I found his off-centred way of thinking and his unconcerned, even disrespectful, attitude to all the sophistication around him immensely refreshing and relieving. We ended up sitting on the suitcase on the edge of the footpath talking about Ireland. Such is the effect the Irish have on people. (You can read a short biography of Jeremy by Professor Harry Prosen in .)
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Discussion or comment on this essay is welcomed—see below.
These essays were created in 2017-2021 by Jeremy Griffith, Damon Isherwood, Fiona
Cullen-Ward, Brony FitzGerald & Lee Jones of the Sydney WTM Centre. All filming and
editing of the videos was carried out by Sydney WTM members James Press & Tess Watson
during 2017-2021. Other members of the Sydney WTM Centre are responsible for the
distribution and marketing of the videos/essays, and for providing subscriber support.