Truth or Dare?
Dare. I dare say we all crave obscenity.
Ooh … I sense prudes mounting their high horses, shouting a spotless synonym for ‘bullshit!’. But that would indicate that they’ve opened up this post, which could indicate that they were unable to resist sneaking a peek at something that might be grubby. Why? Because the human psyche is both squeaky-clean and downright dirty. Naturally.
Truth. The meaning of ‘obscenity’ has been corrupted. Moral purity passed down from earlier centuries (and imprinted on our psyches) has relegated the word to the gutter.
‘Obscenity’ has been fouled by goody-goodies, shat on in the same way the harpies, those mythical fuglies with a human face and bird-like body, crapped on everything.
But this from the Dictionary of Early English:
Ob. From old Hebrew obh, a wizard, sorceress.
Obscene is from ob + scaena.
Ob + scaena evolved—or devolved—to mean, ‘not to be put on the stage; indecent’. (It went downhill from there.)
Actions reflect ideologies. Lexicographers shaped unsoiled dictionaries and showed ‘obscene’ as having sixteenth century French and Latin origins: ob meaning ‘onto’ (not wizard) and caenum meaning ‘filth’ (not stage).
Science trending in the seventeenth century pooh-poohed the spiritual. Sorcery was woo-woo, a mystical force beyond scientific understanding. It was considered dangerous. So, the dictionary extinguished the real meaning of obscenity—pfft—and sorceresses were burned at the stake. But their demise was staged. Witch burning attracted one hell of an audience!
Look Away! Look Away! Or Not …
Even in our civilised world, there’s that pull to look at gut-churning stuff: we still rubberneck on the highway to scope out a horrible accident. Or read about it—where curiosity sells newspapers, morbid curiosity* (in the bastardised sense of the word) rakes in an obscene amount of money. So …
Dare. I daresay tragedy is being normalised and we’re drowning in it.
Truth. We need to know what’s going on in the world, the news needs to communicate reality. But reality in its entirety is tragicomedy, like in the ancient raw stories that form the archetypes of our modern-day existence. Although tragedy is no laughing matter and comedy is no money-spinner for tabloids, jokes start flying not long after an incident.
Why Not Just Good Clean Comedy? Why Obscenity?
The kinds of tragedies filling our airwaves these days hark back to the gruesomeness of an uncivilised, barbaric society. So, the clean ‘why-did-the-chicken-cross-the-road’ humour that used to put a smile on our faces doesn’t go deep enough to give us hope.
The soul needs a sacred kind of healing. It needs things that provoke good belly laughs—make us double up, split our sides, roll in the aisles, bust a gut, screech and howl with mirth.
As Jungian psychologist Clarissa Pinkola Estés says, ‘The mischief and humor of the obscene … can cause a vital form of medicine to spread through the endocrine and neurological systems of the body.’
The People Are Revolting
It’s telling that Billy Connolly’s obscene brand of comedy has a huge following; that Louis C.K is considered ‘America’s Undisputed King of Comedy’; and that Josh Ostrovsky, aka thefatjewish on Instagram, has 8.7 million followers of his obscenity, with every one of his posts attracting six-figure ‘likes’.
With all of this in mind …
Truth and Dare
Obscenity is a must-have.
*More on morbid curiosity in ‘Why the Lure of Horror Is a Good Thing’