I wish that I had me some danged Internet up in here so I could ask it who thought up this business about the world being an oyster and what the hell he meant by it. "The world was his oyster." His oyster? Why?
Two review some defining characteristics of the species: mollusk, bivalve, irregular, sometimes jagged shell, slimy, salty, disgusting or delicious depending on your taste, may but probably will contain a precious gem. So, like a difficult to open, snotty lottery ticket. Fine, I'll say it: A snottery ticket. If your oyster's a loser you get the consolation prize of a mucilaginous glob to swallow. Yum. Or maybe yuk.
So one might gather that this oyster is being in the way of a metaphor. Now, I may be just a simple country lawyer, but I can tell a yaller dog from a bush pig and I'm dogged if I will let this one get loose of me. You have to be firm with these metaphors, tak 'em by the scruff if need be and shake out their secrets.
In the absence of Google, I go to one of its grandsires, my trusty D — Web. C-10, and sure enough right after the factual description, in sense 2, it says: "something that is or can be readily made to serve one's personal ends <the world was her oyster>." There you go. Apparently this phrase has embedded itself deeply enough to create a whole new definition of the word because I cannot imagine any other context where "oyster" sense 2 would fit.
For instance on any agglomeration of useful raw materials. A paycheck. A toolbox. All these are or can be readily made to serve personal ends. But I would not call any of them an oyster. So by dint of this phrase, wherever it came from, the conceptual oyster is a symbol of the reflected power, ability, and infinite possibility of the individual and by extension the powerlessness of the world to offer the least bit of resistance in the face of this resolute conqueror. The world was his oyster! This puissant achiever can simply rip the world from its bed, jam a special world knife into the world's rear hinge, pry the world open, sever the world's adducter muscle from its nacreous mooring, tip his head back and let the world slide down his throat, let his digestive processes do their legendary thing, and then return the world to the world.
Have I about got it, do you think?
Still, one wonders: why an oyster? As far as usefulness goes, you could sum up an oyster's utility thusly (in order of worth): 1. Snack. 2. Ashtray. 3. Edged weapon. 4. Pearl manufactory (allegedly — I've never found one). I can think of way more useful things. A leather man, for example. That is one helpful gadget. Or a JC Penney catalog and a credit card. "The world was his JC Penney catalog." Makes more sense, but doesn't have the same poetic ring. How about this: In the interest of cliche banishment, the next time I want to describe someone who's making the world his bitch, I'll say, "The world was his hamburger."
Like, say, Justin Bieber. Now there's a guy who has slid the world between two hot toasty buns and topped it with cheese and special sauce. The world is most def that boy's hamburger. If you've ever seen those obscene Carl's Jr. commercials wherein scantily clad beauties messily devour giant, complex hamburgers as ancillary ingredients spill out of the sides, that's how I imagine Justin tucking into the world, and it gives me bad dreams.
I've been thinking and I'm not sure that we as a nation, as Americans, are doing enough for the Beebs. Oh sure, he's adored, he is venerated, he has wealth beyond measure and carte blanche with the world's young women, but could we not do more?
I'm going to backtrack a moment. I read a book once called How to Write Good and it said to always know your audience. Considering that, I think the average AVA reader would be an intelligent, mature adult with progressive and/or libertarian tendencies, well read, socially, environmentally and community conscious, rurally situated. Just the sort of person who may not be aware, or only peripherally so, of Mr. Bieber. Allow me to enlighten you.
Justin Bieber is a singer and entertainer but that is like saying the Grand Canyon is a hole in the ground. His is a talent so incandescent, so miraculous, so astonishing that the very beasts goggle in his presence. I'll put it like this. If you were to take a sampling of people throughout history and set standards for male beauty and musical genius — say, Mozart, Valentino, the Beatles, Casanova, Paul Newman, Beethoven, Fabian, Elvis, Narcissus, Bach, and the best Baldwins — and melt them down to their essence, and then filter that essence to extract only those relevant qualities, and you took those qualities and mixed them with a quantity of the world's most precious substances, i.e. gold, diamond, platinum, plutonium, ambergris, caviar, Chanel #5 and foie gras, and you awoke Michelangelo from the dead and had him sculpt that alchemic admixture into a platonic model of male perfection and then you summoned all the best gods, not just Jesus, but Ra, Allah, Zoroaster, Helios, Balder, Sita, Tammuz and daikoku and you had them all imbue it with the best aspects of the soul inherent in their respective mythoi and then jointly with all their godly power they animate him — then you would have something approximating Justin Bieber. Have I painted a vivid enough picture for you? Jaybee is the bee-ho-em-bee, decidedly.
When a star of this magnitude is offered the earthly pleasures of this world and given the freedom to behave however he chooses without regard to consequence, that's basically a slap in the face until people start showing true commitment and devotion. Yes, give him riches; yes allow him freedom, but also give him the greatest gift of all — life. Yours.
Only through human sacrifice will the true Beliebers of this world be worthy to have bathed in his glory. Look at the rulers and deities of the various Central American kingdoms in their ascendancy, your Mayans and Aztecs and what have you. Those guys felt appreciated. Those gods were boss. Only when the blood stopped flowing did these "love thy neighbor" chumps start gaining a toehold in the celestial realm. Do you think Huitzilopochtli ever turned a cheek? Not bloody likely. What he did do was accept as his due as a big ol' beezy the blood of the faithful. Once again, I'm just sayin'.
Showing your your respect to the gods and the wonder they have created in the person of Master Justin Theosophus Bieber by submitting to a stone knife disembowelment on an alter atop a pyramid may not be the worst idea in the world.
I've considered it and I'd bet dollars to dumplings that Shakespeare is responsible for the oysterism. One, it sounds completely like something he would say, and, two, I've found that every apparently nonsensical idiom that people freely use without the vaguest idea of its meaning or provenance can be traced back to either Shakespeare or the Bible. And as I recall the shellfish were given rather short shrift in the latter — basically: don't — so I'm going big Willie. Though there is the ongoing controversy that "Shakespeare's" works were actually composed by Neil Simon.
It suddenly occurs to me that quite recently in this space I engaged in some musings about clams and now here I am going on about oysters. I assure you, this is not the beginning of a trend. Later entries will not feature conches or quahogs or periwinkles, although the mussel/muscle homophony does seem a pretty rich vein. No — I won't do it. The time of the mollusk has ended. Onward and upward!