A Discussion on Obscenities
(October 11th, 2012)

I was on one of my favorite sites this morning, chatting about a recent site event. The topic of working on teams came up, and I pointed out that it's hard for me to find a team with members who don't use obscenities. A discussion ensued with some very interesting points. To protect the identities of the participants, names have been replaced with gemstone images and background colors (for Mods/Admins) have been filtered out. My posts are the Lapis ones (the blue gemstone). The other participants shall be referred to as Amethyst (purple), Emerald (green), Citrine (gold), Topaz (pink), Ruby (red), and Diamond (white). As this conversation took place in a chatbox, it is read starting in the upper left and going down each column.

The first point I found very interesting was Emerald's ascertion that thoughts cannot be controlled. I'm not sure if this is a common opinion out in the world, but it has nasty ramifications if it is. Followed to it's natural conclusion, it says that we have a right to act on any impulse that enters our mind because our thoughts are "uncontrollable". If I see a candy bar that I want but don't have $1 to buy it, then, if I think to steal it, there's no reason why I should not. If I find someone attractive, I have no control over that thought and cannot say no to any thoughts of going home with them. In short, any thought becomes the true self, and, like a wild fire that goes wherever it wants, we would then subject ourselves to every thought that enters our mind, for the better or worse (most likely worse, in our day and age).

I simply find this opinion that we can't control our thoughts very strange. We control our thoughts every day. We choose what we say, how we act, and where we will go. We may think it'd be fun to go play a video game, but we decide to do our homework instead. We may think the driver ahead of us is deserving of a swear or obscene gesture, but we choose to smile and wave politiely to them instead. We may think it rude that there's a screaming baby behind us in line at the grocery, but, instead, we choose to offer sympathy to the mother (who must deal with the fussy baby for far longer than our short wait in the grocery line). In short, our entire lives are a process of sculpting our thoughts into what we want them to be. The choices we make affect the thoughts of tomorrow. If we listen to the vulgar and lude, we are more likely to repeat it, thus spreading it to others.

Amethyst's point that words are only offensive if you allow them to be is also strange to me, especially when she then "chooses" to take offence and express anger at my perceived "religious threat" (see below). If we cannot choose our thoughts (as Emerald suggests), then how can we ever choose our responces to the words of others? If our thoughts are the uncontrolled reality of ourselves over which we have no control, then, if I think that someone's word choice is offensive, what possible choice could I have in my responce? These two points strike me as intensely contradictory. Even if Amethyst rejected Emerald's point about not being able to choose our thoughts, there would still be the debate of whether or not words have a set meaning in and of themselves. If not, I fail to see the point of a Dictionary. Furthermore, do we not, as a society, deem some speech and action to be innappropriate or hateful? Is it the responcibility of the victim (who's just had someone else dump their foul mental trash on a presumably clean lawn) to simply choose not to object, or is it the responcibility of the speaker to bring their language up to the standards of comportment for the company they keep?

As a side note, I would point out that I don't make religious threats because I'm not Jesus Christ, our Eternal Judge. Furthermore, my faith does not accept the "standard" interpretation of Heaven and the "bad place", thus the idea of "burning forever" does not exist in our ideology, for reasons that I won't go into here. When I made the comment about using religion in the discussion, I was actually thinking about a YouTube video (one of my favorites), called "Stay Within the Lines" (especially the sentence starting at 2:08). As to the threat she perceived, I suppose there are consequences in the Eternal World for indulgance in vulgar language, but I do not presume to know what they might be. In Alma 12:14, we learn that the words, works, and thoughts of the wicked shall condemn them at the last day. That being said, I do not feel qualified to judge who shall receive such a prophesied condemnation. I do feel qualified, however, to make a warning that using words you know to be offensive not only affects your own thoughts and self, but it may also affect others, thus poisoning twice. Such a situation seems more than deserving of a warning.

Overall, I felt it was an interesting conversation worthy of the time and effort required to make the above graphic showing the full discussion. I'm not going to go look up all the studies that show that what we take into our minds affects our thoughts and behaviors (because they are numerous and I'm running short on time this morning). Nevertheless, I hope you found this discussion as interesting as I did (whatever side you choose to be on).


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