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
 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.  
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.

17 thoughts on “The truth is a slippery fish”

  1. Truth, in particular Religious truth, is a very slippery fish indeed.
    We are asked to believe 100% in something that may or may not have happened in the way it was written so long ago. We can't know for sure, because none of us were there to witness these things and it's entirely possible that words and meaning were changed during the many many translations and rewritings over time. again, maybe the whole thing is a work of fiction, an elaborate fantasy…"God" of today may very well have been the "bogey-man" of that time that mothers used to scare their children into behaving.
    Either way, people are entitled to believe what they wish and faith is a wonderful thing to sustain yourself with.
    I don't see any need for unbaptisings or excommunications either. Just because you belong to a religion, doesn't mean you are responsible for the wrong doings of others of its members. You are not the conscience of another man/woman. If they conceive of and carry out the sin, it is no more your fault than if they choose to eat doughnuts for dinner every night.
    So guilt on your own part has no place in it, but if you are genuinely unhappy with the church or religion, then leave it behind you, it isn't for you, so move on.

  2. Had a really long comment here for you, but blogger declared it a 502 error, whatever that is. May be a problem on my side of the computer.

  3. One person's truth is always different from another's Elizabeth. We all see things with the benefit of our own experience and our own take on the world.
    Enjoy that soup – sounds lovely.

  4. St Patrick’s Day is not a big thing here in Scotland. Neither, to be honest, is St Andrew’s Day despite what has to say on the matter. The first I became aware of it (we’re back onto St Patrick’s Day) was through watching American TV and the fuss they seem to make over it, green beer and the like. I suppose it says a lot about us Scots that we don’t feel the need of a day to celebrate our national identity; we’re secure in our Scottishness every day of the year. Maybe if I was an expat it might be different.

    Carrie’s not one for women’s magazines. I don’t think I’ve seen her buy one in all the years we’ve been married. She took to the Internet like a duck to water and now if she wants a recipe that’s her first port of call. She doesn’t make homemade soup very often and if she did it wouldn’t be leek and potato; she knows I like a bit of meat in my soup and I veer away from anything even vaguely creamy. I would also object if she only served up soup for my dinner; soup’s okay for lunch but not dinner or ‘tea’ as I tend to call it. We had some nice thick Jambalaya Soup a couple of days ago—store bought—and I think we’re due some Nacho Chilli Chicken Soup today; I do like spicy food.

    As far as the new pope goes I’ve followed the story only because it’s been given so much airtime—it’s on the TV as I’m typing this in fact—but I really couldn’t care less. I find the news that people are un-baptising or excommunicating themselves interesting (not that you can do either) and I did formally resign when I left all things religious behind me not because of anything my church had done but to make a clean break. By disassociating myself they could also be protected from any sin I chose to commit like fornication. It felt like the right thing to do. You can’t have your cake and eat it.

    As for truth, my old whipping boy, I’ve just done a quick search of my poems and since I was seventeen (which is when I started writing adult poems) I’ve written seventy-eight poems with the word ‘truth’ in them; I actually expected more. It’s a subject I’m tired of and although the ideas still come—I have three poems in my draft folder with the word ‘truth’ in them—I shy away from it. I’ve said as much as I think I have to say. Here’s the middle stanza of one of those draft poems:

            The memories become stories,
            the stories become myths,
            the truth is diluted day by day
            until all there is left is the shape of truth,
            something that carries with it
            a certain familiarity.

    It’s rough and I may never finish it because it’s not saying anything fresh.

    I’ve been reading a lot about Alzheimer’s recently. I was particularly interested in reading a sufferer’s account. What must it be like to feel your memories slip away from you like that? Who we are, who we imagine we are, is so dependent on what we’ve seen and done. I stress the word ‘imagine’ because I’m starting to realise that memory and imagination aren’t as separate as we used to think they were. I don’t so much remember my past as I imagine it. The few facts thrown in there give it a feeling of authenticity but authentic is not necessarily truthful-with-a-capital-t. I’m becoming more and more content with… what shall I call it?… the ishness of everything. Truthfullish does me just fine.

  5. Truth is like the the elephant and the blind men. It is different and just as valid for each of them. Religious truth now, I find to be an oxymoron. I personally left religion behind. All religion. Once you codify it, once your declare it and refuse to change, then it dies like all things that go stagnant. Searching for the divine, catching that slippery fish, that is truth. On another note, I've often thought the prophets were probably schizophrenic. Today we medicate them.

  6. Unbaptising yourself is a silly idea, considering that it's a man-made process in the first place.

    As for truth – coupled with memory and recollection – it's can be as muddled as a stirred mug of your husband's soup: lots of varying ingredients, movement and colour.

  7. A bit off topic, Laoch, but today I heard a radio program about Alzheimer's, which is at the extreme end of problems with memory. A woman raised concerns about the way in which we tend to vilify Alzheimer's with words that highlight the extremes, such as an epidemic of Alzheimer's, as if the condition were contagious. She may have a point. she suggested we reclassify the condition into one described as deep forgetting. It has a more humane ring.

    Thanks, Laoch. It's good to see you here again.

  8. Yes, River, I agree. We are not responsible for every individual who happens to belong to the same club which we've joined, though it's funny how often every member of the club gets tainted by the misdeeds of another in the club, as if there is a wish to see all members as one. Life's not like that. We take on board some ideas and discard others but none of us are all of a piece in our beliefs or our commitments anyhow.

    I'm not big on the notion of the sins of the fathers, not consciously at least, though I recognise in spite of our best intentions we certainly can suffer for them as the years go by.

    Thanks, River.

  9. The soup was lovely, Pat, strong and tasty and just the thing on a mild saint Patrick's day night. I'm with you about the diversity of human kind. We are all so very different as much as we also have many things in common.

    Thanks, Pat.

  10. I'm like you, Jim, I prefer the notion of truthfulness as opposed to truth. The word truthful has an adjectival, adverbial quality. The noun truth is too absolute for my tastes.
    And memory well I can write about it again and again and every time I try it shifts a little as is the nature of memory.
    I only read the sop-called women's mags in doctor's surgeries and the like. I'm still surprised by how little I can remember of what I read there. It's called 'disposable' literature I think. You read it and then trash it.

    Thanks for another of your wonderful poems. I enjoy the way posts inspire some poetic reflection from you, Jim. It lightens my day.

  11. Too, true, Ellen and what a poetic way of reflecting on the notion the these days we medicate the prophets. We're probably fearful of their message, especially as regards the likes of climate change and such horrible human-made atrocities that many of us find hard to countenance.

    Thanks, Ellen.

  12. I suppose there is a certain truthfulness in my husband's soup, Kath, as you suggest, all muddled up with memory and imagination, along with a few hard core facts like the actual constituents of the soup – potatoes, leaks, spinach, chicken stock. The bringing together, the time spent on the stove, the stirring and added spices give us a chemistry, that's otherwise hard to define. But you know when it tastes good.

    Thanks, Kath.

  13. You're right, Kirk. The baptismal water evaporated a long time ago, but there is a theory that the water is only the symbolic part, and the symbolic part as in the human-made ritual sticks forever. Of course it doesn't except in our minds.

    Thanks for the wit, Kirk. It's ever appreciated.

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