Catholic Koan

BaptizedRosita Boland wrote about this picture in the Irish Times the other day. It’s from a schoolbook she had as a child.

The article is well worth reading. I just wanted to add that the image has gone viral. I’d missed the story in the Times but was alerted to it by Laughing Squid, an “online resource for interesting art, culture & technology”. Shortly thereafter, a friend in the States posted it to Facebook.

People around the world are intrigued and somewhat horrified at God’s strictly hierarchical love. Myself though, I think most are missing the philosophical depth of this little puzzle. To the uninitiated it might seem obvious that the Church wants you to select the baptised baby, but the baby is not there to be encircled! Clearly Catholicism is a lot more Zen than I thought.

I think as a child I would have resolved the conundrum by drawing in the baby. Maybe that’s too linear, but I liked drawing.

I don’t know in fact if I had this actual book in school. My brain is telling me I’ve seen it before, but I don’t trust my brain. I reckon I’m older than Rosita Boland though, but much, much younger than that drawing style, so it’s theoretically possible. In my recent trawlings through the attic I did find books from the same series, one of which I now have in my hand. And here’s something interesting – they’re not from Ireland.

They were reprinted here by Fallons and, according to the flyleaf of this one at least, “edited and revised by a panel of Irish Catechists”, but they were actually written by American nuns – mainly a Sister Maria De La Cruz of an order called the Helpers of the Holy Souls – and originally published by W.H. Sadler in New York in 1969. Look at the spelling of “baptized”.

The One Cent Catechism? My world is rocked.

The Brain – Your Body’s Attic Space

Modified version of an image originally upload...
That's Where I Left My Keys

So I’m working through the wreckage of my past, found dumped in a dozen broken cardboard boxes. This is a fascinating process for me because basically I have no memory. I’m not an amnesia victim, I’ve never had a traumatic brain injury. Well you know, as far as I can say. I just don’t remember things much. This leads to strange revelations, like coming across a comic strip that I have no recollection of seeing before, but which was quite clearly written and drawn by me. The old made new. What’s especially great is if one of these actually makes me laugh.

It’s all right to laugh at your own jokes when you don’t remember being the person who made them.

God my drawing used to be awful though. Stupid I know, but it gets me down. I know I am not by any means a good artist now; my drawing is merely adequate to the task, but I don’t mind that. And it’s not the fact that I wasn’t any good as a child. Why would I be? What’s depressing is that I thought I was.

Seems I really was a fairly bright kid though. I came across a Mensa entrance test that I’d taken but never submitted. Yeah, I considered applying to Mensa once. But then I figured, it’s a club that admits the smartest two percent of the population. Why slum it?

Also there was the small matter of a fee. I looked through it again. Some questions seemed pretty damn difficult even to adult me. In fact I’m not sure if I’d do any better now than I would’ve at fourteen.

Which is also depressing.

I thought I would reproduce one of the questions here. I think I know what the answer is meant to be, but I’m not completely sure there isn’t more than one solution:

In my aquarium I have all together in the same tank (1) garpa fish, which will eat both tennel fish and eels, (2) tennel fish, which eat eels, and (3) eels, which will feed on the dead bodies of garpa fish. The tennel fish can swim much too fast to be caught by the garpa fish, even in a tank. If no other food is given, which will be the last kind (or kinds) of fish left alive in the tank?

  1. Eels.
  2. Garpa fish and tennel fish.
  3. Tennel fish.
  4. Garpa fish.
  5. Tennel fish and eels.

Answer that, and you might be Mensa material. Though do bear in mind that the word means ‘table’.