Flavin’s Corner
2-23-01

Carnival Lecture

"Candyman, candyman, candyman, candyman, ...candyman!"
Some dumb broad in Candyman: Farewell to The Flesh (1995).

Ridley Scott’s minimalist approach to gore in his film based on Thomas Harris’ novel, Hannibal, has left me aghast and disappointed at our apparent condoning of cannibalism.  A little indifference sometimes goes a long way.  I would guess many might take chilly extremes with a significant number swinging any which way depending on need, availability, and possible identification with the suave and gruesome fictional character, Dr. Hannibal Lecter.  The current Catholic celebration of Carnival (from the Old Italian carnelevare, “the putting away of flesh”) is a time of gluttony in anticipation of Lent and forty days of going without meat.  As transubstantiation morphs a thin cracker into a sliver of the Living Jesus, a reconsideration of certain dinner traditions would seem to be in order, as well as a closer look at Catholic metaphor and one’s ability to quote Bart Simpson and say “Bite me!” with a straight face.  Some Carnival lectures might include commentaries and recommendations about condoms and Travelers Checks, but I’m interested in what’s so special about one form of nutrition over another.

A couple of weeks ago a convicted burglar upset with his five year sentence and big-house surroundings cut open and mutilated his cellmate as an intended affectation of insanity to qualify for hospital quarters.  His violence more than adequately accomplished the task and he’ll now spend the rest of his suffering life in the loony bin.  He plucked out an eye, removed the liver and spleen (allegedly believing the spleen to be the cellmate’s heart), and displayed the body-parts as if he were going to eat them.  The suggestion of cannibalism was for shock value, but ultimately unnecessary.  The horrible murder of his cellmate was sufficient to garner the attention he craved.

The Fourth World Conference on Women held Sept. 4-15, 1995 in Beijing was noteworthy for featuring a speech by Hillary Clinton, and also for the Catholics taking out full-page ads in major newspapers before the conference and decrying the icky habit of many Chinese who eat human fetuses with hopes of magically improving skin tone, mood, and other mundane aspirations.  As Beijing is competing for the 2008 Olympics I wonder if the IOC should demand Chinese athletes be tested for anthropophagy as well as drugs.  Making soup from fetuses is extreme cooking! 

Here in Massachusetts a 5-year-old girl has recently left the Catholic Church because she suffers from celiac disease, a dietary problem when consuming wheat gluten, and cannot take the communion ‘host', which is always a wheat cracker.  She kept getting sick, her parents lobbied church officials to allow her communion with a non-wheat ‘host’, and the subsequent stance of the Catholics toward this little girl has me confused.  What’s so special about wheat?  Wouldn’t a rice or soy-flour host contain the necessary symbolism?  Lt. Governor Jane Swift (soon to be our Governor, as Republicans in this state like to bail once in office and seek fame and fortune elsewhere), has admitted suffering from the same disorder, but hasn’t described how she’s gotten around her dietary restrictions and being a Catholic.  Maybe it’s a Republican “faith-based” thing, but I’m not sure.  I can applaud the Catholics for speaking out against cannibalism, but how they handled a sick little girl seems more small minded than spiritual. 

I’ve never been entirely comfortable with the thought of eating the flesh of Jesus.  Hey, the dude supposedly died for “my” sins and now I’m supposed to snack on him?  Way weird.  However, metaphor and allegory aside, The Smiths’  “Meat Is Murder” put on the back-burner, I don’t mind risking mad-cow and ketchup, but I do balk at the thought of munching on the Messiah. 

While I wholeheartedly support the concept of party-gals exposing their breasts on the streets of New Orleans during Mardi Gras (“fat Tuesday”), the Catholic habit of dining on deity was a mistake from the beginning.  Scholars believe Jesus often ate with his followers (and perhaps with anyone else who provided free grub), but reject the so-called “Last Supper” as fiction.  As Jews avoid consuming blood, the tradition of drinking wine and pretending its blood likely began in a Hellenistic (read: pagan) setting and was later added to the Jesus Narrative.  I suppose chewing god alone would be insufficient and swallowing is important.  It’s creepy.  I wonder if Dr. Lecter is Catholic?

Lent, the forty days before Easter, used to require Catholics to give up all meat during this period, though it’s currently relaxed and the only prohibition seems to be mixing meat and fish in the same meal.  That’s too weird even for me!  This year, as in the past, I’ll probably give up being a Catholic for Lent.  It’ll be rough, but somehow I’ll manage.

Drinking cheap chianti and tossing beads,
Rick

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