The Story of Glass

A long, long time ago, there was a man who more than anything else wanted to put his fist through something. He did not quite know what it was that he wanted to put his fist through, but he thought it was probably something rather specific. He was also fairly certain that whatever it was, it didn't exist yet.

And so he went to work. He spent many long months attempting to invent whatever it was. He had a few vague ideas about what it might be like, but he went through a number of creations which he ultimately rejected. He believed it should be something which would serve a useful purpose, other than for putting a fist through. He didn't know what that purpose might be, and he didn't care; once it had been invented, someone else could find a practical use for whatever it was. He believed it should be something which would be easy to break, even to destroy entirely and irreparably. He believed it should do some damage to the fist which was put through it, but not, necessarily, extensive damage. He believed it should be something whose useful purpose would be somewhat essential, so that its destruction would pose a fair amount of inconvenience. He believed... well, he had, perhaps, a number of other vague ideas about whatever it was, but they were too vague for him to put them into words; in fact, they were so vague, he couldn't quite put them into thoughts.

He worked for a very, very long time, with many missteps along the way. Finally, he finished one of his many inventions, and as soon as he saw it, he knew straight away that this was it. It was fairly thin, transparent, rectangular, and eminently breakable. When broken, pieces of it would become very sharp, and could generally be rather efficient at cutting things, not the least of which was skin.

He refrained from putting his first through it. It was, after all, the prototype, and something to be cherished.

He introduced his invention to the world, and immediately, everyone who saw it thought to themselves, 'This is it! I've always wanted to put my fist through something, but I never knew what. But this is it!' They however did not voice these thoughts, for they felt fairly certain that there was something wholly wrong about such thoughts. Some of them suspected that the others felt the same way, even if they didn't say so, but most of them suspected that they were alone in their feelings, or at least in the depraved minority.

As soon as everyone had gone through the cycle of these thoughts, they began to think up possible uses for this new thing, this...

"What's it called?" somebody in the crowd asked.

The man who had invented it, who was now standing on a small stage, on which also stood his prototype, was surrounded by a great crowd of people. He was a bit taken aback by this question. Somehow, it had entirely failed to occur to him to consider this. A name? Why... hmmm. Well, he thought about it for a minute. "Ahhh..." he said, to fill the time until he could think of a proper name for his invention. "Ah... glass," he said. He didn't know why he said it. He didn't know what it meant. It just somehow sounded right. It just slid off his tongue. The crowd seemed to like this name.

"Glass," they all said.

They began to think of uses for glass. It didn't occur to them to ask its inventor what he meant it for, so they just started tossing out suggestions. The inventor liked their ideas. The one he liked best was what someone called a 'window.' That was what most of the crowd liked best, too.

It was not until some time later that it occurred to anyone to make glass in other shapes, to use as containers. But when it did, these new ideas were as welcome as the original. They were also useful- particularly the thing called 'bottles'- in breaking and using to cut things, not the least of which was skin.

However, from the earliest time of glass' invention, it was generally acknowledged, essentially in an unspoken way, that it was not something to put one's fist through, or to use for cutting things (especially not skin), or in any way to break. Such things did happen from time to time. A lovely new twist on the old idea of puting one's fist through it was developed throwing a rock through it. Or throwing people through it. Or throwing a lump of glass- perhaps in the form of a bottle- at something, allowing it to shatter on impact. Much later still, people thought of adding fire and combustibles to the bottle, as had long been practiced with arrows and catapult fodder. On the whole, though, glass was only used for its good, useful purposes. People tended to refrain from breaking it, or using it for ill. They didn't like using such restraint, but they felt they had to do.

Which of course tended to make the very rare occasions when they did allow themselves to misuse glass in such ways all the more rewarding and fulfilling.

And to this day, there is not a person alive who on some primal level does not want to use glass for harm. The most satisfying way to do this, of course, is still to put your own fist through a window. Most people of course will not admit that they want very deeply to do this, but they do. They may not themselves even know that they do but they do. Some other people know it, admit it, and in fact overindulge in it, even become addicted to breaking glass. But there are still those who know how to break glass responsibly, only on special occasions. For them it is one of life's great simple pleasures.

Author's note: The story of glass was written in winter, I cannot recall what year, probably 1997 or 1998. It was written shortly after I had indulged in putting my fist through a window.