So like any normal person who is listening to the radio in their car (and I truly feel for you all) I came across the song “S&M” by Rihanna. In it she has a chorus line of “Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but chains and whips excite me.” I’m sure everyone was with me with where their minds went next, namely the odd reality for most folks who suffered from or perhaps even those who were bullies. (I am, of course, referring to the original line that her lyric is derived from. ‘Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.’)
It was the bruises that healed and were often forgotten, something about them makes them (and for me as a child) made them far less critical. The only act of physical violence that ever stuck with me was the attempted murder, beyond that extreme case I have largely forgotten every punch, kick, or scratch. A minor exception for taking a skateboard to the calf because that was a very unusual way to be harmed and the unusual remains in our minds for much longer than the mundane.
It was instead the words, both written and spoken, that truly carved an impression in me. They still do, and new words often find their ways deep under my skin to leave scars on my own metaphysical existence. I hated every rude word for much the same reason that I dislike and occasionally even hate marketing.
It’s so hauntingly invasive, a punch or a kick is stopped for the most part by your flesh, it remains external and temporary. A word invades your ear, it imprints itself upon your brain no matter how you feel about it. You cannot say no to words, they will force themselves upon you without trouble and in many cases without any appreciable end. Visuals too, marketing banners invade your eyes without your permission and settle down in your consciousness. It’s the missing layer of defense that makes me so uneasy about the whole matter, some folks may say that they are ‘just words’ but a punch is ‘just kinetic energy’.
After all when we die there is something intangible that vanishes, when an online game dies its data vanishes from the ether (at least in the functional sense) and so to does the human. You go from being Chris, or Will, or Jake, named things, living things, to “the body”. Just fleshy remains that no longer function. Yet it is that thing that you cannot hold that made those bodies special, the person that one projected from the brain.
It’s the intangible that we most appreciate, so much so that we invent our own ever stronger intangible heroes. Each culture attempting to make theirs better than the previous, the equivalent of “Oh yeah? My number is infinity + 1.”
It is the impact on these untouchable bits of ourselves that makes them so immortal. Those words of your first love, that first shocking realization, the bitter grumble of your first bully. You remember their names, their eyes, their persona. Over time you may actually shed the truth of them and leave behind an avatar of their essence, the culmination of their words into flesh. You manifest from all they forced upon you a beast to take residence in your mind.
I have broken quite a few bones in my life, and not a one has left any appreciable impact on my life. It has been so mundane in the past that a few times I was unaware I had broken a bone until someone pointed out I was favoring the uninjured limb. But the sting of insults carry with me, and in moments of silence I do find myself feeling earnest hate for people that likely no longer recall my existence. This plays a strong part in why I have no sympathy for hate speech, These are truly damning acts and they are anything but harmless. You do not need to be physically involved to both figuratively and sometimes literally kill someone.
So yeah, listened to the radio today.