Okay, call me crazy, this is totally off the wall. Yesterday while driving to work I got caught up in the morning traffic on the 210 and had to crawl my way to the Grand Ave off-ramp. Just past Sunflower I made my way over to the slow lane and for some odd reason I got to thinking about that saying “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” and I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I thought about and analysed it the entire way home. Why? Hell, I don’t know, boredom maybe? The mind does strange things.
I don’t recall the first time I actually heard the phrase but I must have been pretty young because I remember taking it literally and couldn’t for the life of me understand why anyone would want to live in a glass house and why they would be dumb enough to throw stones! In time I came to understand that people didn’t really live in glass houses and that it was simply a aphorism that simply means ‘we shouldn’t criticize others if we are as bad as they are’or ‘complain about their faults and weaknesses when we have faults and weaknesses of our own. In simple terms, don’t be a hypocrite.
Later while attending college I took a philosophy course and the subject came up during a particular class session. Actually the phrase that came up in our discussion was “the pot calling the kettle black” which has much the same meaning as the glass house quote, a criticism we makes of another when the criticism could well apply to ourselves. Glass houses came up in the discussion and it was interesting to see that not everyone agreed with the commonly accepted meaning. Some believed that it meant people shouldn’t act aggressively in delicate situations and a few others said that it meant that people who have vulnerabilities shouldn’t attack others, because it will draw attention to their own weaknesses.” The professor of course was non committal and said only that these sayings and aphorisms are situational and open to interpretation. Typical, you can never get a straight answer out of a professor especially in a psych or philosophy class.
All the interpretations make sense but the last one seems to explain it best, at least for me. There are a hell of a lot of people out there who are fragile as eggshells and glass like. When they feel threatened or cornered, they are pressed to mount an attack or ‘throw stones’ at those who threaten them. The targets retaliate and subsequently reveal the weaknesses of those fragile individuals, thus shattering their house. Sort of gives a new meaning to “Rock the house” doesn’t it?
All of these words, phrases and sayings with deep and multiple meanings, these metaphors and aphorisms are a big pain in the brain. Why cant thinks be more literal? Why can’t we just say what we mean damn it! Wouldn’t a literal translation make more sense? There are a lot of people who simply can’t ‘read between the lines’ and will never get it, the deeper meaning will always elude them, lost in a jumble of figurative, imaginative and exaggerated double-speak. A literal translation would end all of that. A literal translation of the ‘glass house’ statement makes more sense. If you live in a house made of glass and you throw stones you run the risk of shattering your home to pieces, making “people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” a very worthwhile piece of advice literally speaking.
With that final thought on the subject I was snapped back into reality and the 210 not so freeway. I was about a quarter mile from Grand Ave when I spied an old Toyota to my right. I don’t know why but I got the feeling that he wanted to move over into the slow lane, and at 10 mph and bumper to bumper it really was a slow lane. I remember thinking “If he puts on his turn signal and doesn’t just try to jam in, I’m gonna let him in.” A moment later, as if he read my mind his turn signal came on. I slowly applied the brake until he was able to move over. This earned me a double reward for my courteousness, a ‘thank you’ wave from the Toyota driver in front of me and a honk of the horn and a single finger salute from the woman behind me. Yes, that’s right, a women! Oh well…