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“The Swear Jar”: Insight On Acceptance

When I got a Kindle Fire for Christmas a couple years ago I also got a free subscription to GQ. I’m not a magazine subscriber, and not sure I would classify myself as a “GQ magazine type of guy,” but alas, somehow that subscription keeps getting filled. There are some great articles in there (and their ridiculous deals don’t help the matter).

swear_jar

Photo by Franck Allais

Anyway, as I’m skimming the backlog of articles from the August issue, I came across The Swear Jar by Jay Kirk. The gist of the story is he swears *a lot*—like at his 6-year-old a lot—and with the help of his wife, devises a punishment which includes ordering a giant African millipede online and sticking his hand in it’s cage as a punishment.

Before you laugh, take a look at some of the pictures of this thing. It can be 15″ long AND shoots effing cyanide. Yeah. This might paint a picture of the masterfully written article and the situation:

Using the tongs and a pair of pliers, I managed to convey, awkwardly, the deli container into the roomy interior of the Critter Cage. Pinning the deli container to one corner with a paint stick, I used the tongs to pull off the lid, and then, feeling like I might faint, tilted the container, and out rolled the millipede with a hard click on the glass. For a second I thought it was dead. But then it began to uncoil. I took a few steps back as it slowly lengthened, lengthened out some more, and then erected itself against the glass, antennae probing, its hundreds of blood-red legs rippling, moving in peristaltic waves, scritching at the glass like a thousand tiny ink black bird talons.

The entire article is really well written and had me laughing out loud for most of it, but it also actually had a real point. I wouldn’t say I swear like a sailor, though I’ve definitely had to check myself in front of the kids, but the real issue he came to grips with in the article was acceptance. He reads somewhere that swearing is lashing out at those things in life that you don’t accept, and by the amount and level of his cussing problem, it’s clear he doesn’t accept a lot of the day-to-day. And to this I can relate. Here’s another passage as he sits in his basement with this thing serving out a punishment, hand dangling in the cage, inches from the millipede:

Terrified as I was, it also felt kind of foolish being down here, penned in by all the seedy layers and strata of domestic neglect—the broken lamps, unwanted Christmas presents, dead electronics, old Bundt pans—all somehow seeming to embody the accumulative backlog of regrets and shame that go with growing older.

I go in and out of funks where I’m basically pissed off at my reality: there isn’t enough time, the kids are complaining too much, we don’t have enough money, the air quality’s too shitty to go outside…and on and on and on. My discontentment isn’t being caused by these things, it’s a choice. These things that get to me just are. They are a part of my life. And it’s only when I don’t accept them that I become angry and resentful and lean towards throwing more than a few expletives into the mix. This article was really timely for me and was a great way to get some perspective AND have a good laugh.

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  • tellio

    Yeah, this is primo daymare material much less nightmare. I am struck by how much your last paragraph reminds me of one of my favorite vids from 2103, “This Is Water”: http://dotsub.com/view/6b8cc93f-3b53-486b-a1ce-025ffe6c9c52

    And…it really is OK to curse bad shit. Really, but I think your lesson to us is about the human condition, what Nikos Kazantzakis said in Zorba the Greek, “Since we cannot change reality, let us change the eyes which see reality.”

    I remember last summer having a motto, “Embrace the noise.” Why do that? Because the signal is in the noise. Isn’t that what the millipede does, gives us a proper filter for cutting through the crap. I’m just glad that most of us don’t need to embrace the nightmare to get the message.

    • luhoka

      You speak the truth, my friend. And that video is going to be a hard one to beat for me in 2014. Beautiful stuff. Thank you.

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