Ancient wisdom can keep us from cursing
By Nury Vittachi
Your narrator was inspired to create a piece of Zen wisdom the other day: A journey of a thousand miles begins with: “Where’s the @#$%ing remote?”
Nine hundred and ninety nine miles later, the answer to this question for people with children is (a) in the fridge, (b) in the toilet, (c) in the dog, or, thanks to interstellar wormholes, (d) apparently in a galaxy, far, far away, never to be seen again.
Oh, and please excuse the “bad” language in the first paragraph. But I like using symbols like @#$%^&, because readers can insert the “right” type of bad word according to their personal standards.
My family members are mild religious people whose strongest curse word is “bothersome”, followed by blushes and apologies. My work friends are at the other extreme, and one former journalistic colleague surely popped out of the womb with the words: “What the @#$% just happened?”
But you know what? Some people should never use bad words because it just sounds wrong in their mouths. Business commentators are an example. “Share prices fell ‘a #$%^-load of points’ yesterday, an analyst said. Today’s trading will see the index fall by ‘a #$%^ of a lot’, he added.”
Some professions have their own swear words. I was once at a meeting where an auditor used the term “non-compliant” and two shocked accountants put their hands to their mouths. If you want to upset musicians, call what they do “karaoke”. And if you want to shock any doctor who enters your workplace, say: “Sorry, we don’t serve homeopaths.”
Psychologists say that cursing can alleviate negative feelings, so how can clean-mouthed people avoid missing out? I like the system used in the children’s book Fantastic Mr. Fox, where “cuss” is used as a curse. “This is cussing bad,” characters say.
I used to know a guy who used a list of avian species to express his feelings. For some reason known only to The Universe, the names of birds make really satisfying curses: Lazy Cisticola, Tufted Titmouse, Warbling Doradito, Brown Trembler, Paltry Tyrannulet, Yellow Bellied Sapsucker, Rough Faced Shag, Red Faced Booby, Spangled Drongo, Agile Tit-Tyrant and the like.
The fact is that real life can be incredibly bothersome (sorry!), leaving you in danger of losing your cool. But instead of cursing, keep calm by strengthening your inner spirit with modern day Zen sayings. Here are three that serve me well:
1) Good judgment comes from bad mistakes, so be sure to make plenty. 2) A good meal and three glasses of red magically turns any restaurant into a karaoke bar. 3) The most important lesson in life world is to just learn to let go. Except maybe for rock climbers. And trapeze artists. And arm wrestlers. And parents crossing the road with small children. And people in tug-of-war contests. Oh never mind.
But you can definitely use Zen on kids. When mine were smaller, I gave them a magically powerful piece of ancient wisdom which I’d just made up: “If the name of the day of the week includes ‘day’, something wonderful is going to happen.” That helped them live charmed lives for years.