Sunday, March 17, 2013

The truth is a slippery fish

Saint Patrick’s Day and my mind goes to two things.  First the soup we will have for dinner tonight, leak and potato with toasted bread and butter.  It’s a tradition we built up over the years mostly because most of us in this family enjoy the soup, one of my husband's specialities. 

He found the recipe in one of those newsagent’s cook books that came out years ago, one that specialises in Italian cooking.  This Women’s Weekly cook book, or is it from New Idea, a magazine my husband likes to re-name No Idea as a joke in honour of his perception of the magazine's mindlessness?  Except for its recipes, the Italian cook book offers simple tasty delights, including the soup, which we eat on Saint Patrick’s day, in spite of the fact it's called Saint Joseph’s Day soup in Italy.

My mind then pitches back to the Saint Patrick’s Day march of years gone by, in the days when I felt proud to be a Catholic.  One day a year as close to Saint Patrick’s Day as possible, we school children marched along Collins street, which the police had cordoned off and every school sent a cohort of boys and girls to represent them. 

We marched in order of schools, presumably based on the age of the school.  Saint Patrick’s College, my older brothers’ school, a Jesuit school then located in East Melbourne near the cathedral, now no more, came in first, and my school, Vaucluse Convent, run by the Faithful Companions of Jesus, once in Darlington Parade Richmond and also now no more, came in second. 

The school captains held the banners high in front of every group and Archbishop Simonds, who took over from the famous Daniel Mannix, led the procession in his black cathedral car.

It’s timely I should be writing this now on Saint Patrick's Day and after they have just elected another Pope.  I no longer feel proud of my catholic inheritance.  I disowned it long ago in a manner of speaking, not that you can ever disown your past.  It’s there with you forever whether you like it or not.  However, it is possible to learn from the past and not hold yourself responsible for things that you were born into, things not of your own making.  

At least that’s how I see it now and that’s why I’m troubled by this idea I’ve seen on Face Book and in other parts of social media that go on about un-baptising yourself or excommunicating yourself to be freed from responsibility for the wrongdoings of certain members of the church .

I see no need, largely because I imagine the whole thing of baptism and belief is a construction, a thing that is human made and therefore able to be reconstructed in any way we see fit, simply through an internal decision to stay or to leave. 

Of course any belief system can be dangerous if its endowed with supernatural powers and when the powers-that-be encourage the young, naïve and innocent to take beliefs on board as gospel truths.  Hopefully, most of us learn to modify our views on such dogma soon enough,  though when I was young, very young, right up until my adolescence I took my religion on board as the ‘truth’. 

Now I think of  the truth as a slippery fish.  You can only grasp it momentarily before it slips off into the ocean and you have to spend long hours fishing for another truth in the form of an equally wriggly fish that might also slide into your hands if you’re lucky enough but again only momentarily before it too slips back into the ocean. 

We can remember the sensation of the truth.  We can play around with how it feels, how important it might be, and we can modify our views; but the idea of holding firm to the truth leaves us only with a dead lifeless fish in our hands, no longer fluid, no longer free to swim the oceans and grow stronger and bigger. 

Maybe that’s too simple a metaphor but strangely when my husband just now went to look for the recipe for Saint Joseph’s day soup we could not find it in the Italian cook book after all.  

My memory, my truth has failed me.  We found a version of Saint Joseph's day soup through Google but where I wonder is the original?  I had hoped to photograph a bowl of soup for you and post it here so you too might enjoy the image and the tastes it evoked. 

See what happens to the truth?   It slips away in the shadows of memory.
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