Monday, 23 July 2012

The Omlette and the Rose Soap

Today I made a splendid omlette. Let me tell you about this omlette. It was a onion, mushroom and tomato omlette served with a side of black pudding, which is not really a pudding but Scottish blood sausage.

This omlette was made from 3 medium free range eggs, one tablespoon of water, a big pinch of salt, a small pinch of pepper and the quarter onion, 2 mushrooms and quarter tomato I had chopped up and fried in butter beforehand.

Omlettes depend very much on the frying pan being the perfect temperature, and this time I got that right. I could tell because after a while my omlette slid easily around the pan, a sure sign of being evenly cooked. The omlette being almost done, I threw in the cooked veg, flipped the omlette in half, gave it a minute on one side, gave it another minute on the other side, and slid it onto a hot plate.

"Come and eat this perfect omlette while it is still hot," said I to our house guest.

"If it is perfect, maybe I should take a photo of it first," was the reply.

"No," I cried, terrified of any delay that might make my perfect omlette not so perfect anymore. "The omlette is to be eaten! It has a transitory perfection!"

And so the perfect omlette passed out of existence, exactly as it was meant to do.

The house guest had brought, among other hostess presents, a rose-scented soap shaped like a rose. It reminds me of a rose-shaped candle I know. The difference between the soap and the candle, beyond their ingredients, is that the owner of the candle does not want to burn it because it is pretty and I intend to use up my soap over the course of time. That is, after all, what the soap is for.

I'm very anthropocentric when you get down to it. I firmly believe with Saint Thomas Aquinas that there are things to be used (uti) and things to be enjoyed for themselves (fruti). Human beings are among those things to be enjoyed for themselves, which means never using them as a means to an end. But omlettes, soaps and, may I say it, candles should be used and not made out to be more than they are.

Being married to a museum curator, I understand the importance of preserving certain objects in art galleries and museums. For one thing, it is good that the lives, art and achievements of past generations be understood by present and future generations. A beautiful inlaid jewellery box made from scraps of metal and bone by an 18th century French prisoner-of-war in a dungeon beneath Edinburgh Castle serves as a salutary reminder that we're not all that and a bag of chips just because we belong to the computer age.

However I don't understand a need to preserve the transitory things when they are best consumed. Most of the time, a book should be read. A dress should be worn. Candles should be burned. Omlettes should be eaten. Beasts should be eaten--although I am very sympathetic to vegetarians and think it very good of them to abstain, as if for the rest of us in reparation for our many sins against animals. (I don't think swiftly killing and eating animals sinful, but I certainly think trapping them into simply wretched existences, or making them fight each other to the death, reprehensible.)

People, on the other hand, must not be used up like soap or candles. This may seem obvious, but not when we are talking about romance and sexuality. There are people, people either unsympathetic to or ignorant of orthodox Christianity, who think that virginity is a waste. Luther and Hitler were both distressed by the "waste" of German women as nuns; in their view German women should be wedded and bedded and bred from. And Catholic women are not so far from this point of view when we sigh over "Father What-a-Waste." People are not valuable for their sexuality but for their status as sons and daughters of God.

I think this is what Saint Augustine means when he says that married men must not treat their wives like prostitutes. I suppose some men do. I once knew a male university student who worked alongside a newly married man in a warehouse for a summer. The newly married man had not know his wife before they married; it was an arranged marriage. In arranged marriages it is expected that love will grow in time, and I certainly believe that that happens very often, but this might not have happened yet here, because this man told my male friend all about his sex life with his new wife. All about it. Can you imagine? The average Canadian guy expects locker room talk from a few guys about the kind of women men think it is okay to talk like that about, but not locker room talk about a guy's wife. This one was was a virgin when they married.

Anyway, I don't know what the deal was there, beyond utter immaturity and perhaps an attitude towards women rather foreign to the West, for all that we're considered so decadent. I mention it because it is such an example of using someone as a means to an end, first for the physical pleasure and second for the pleasure of bragging to someone at work.

Don't get me started on serial monogamy. You know: the "dating" arrangment where two people sleep together until one or the other or both are bored and want to move onto newer pastures for the high for being "in love".


Jam said...

This is one of the lessons I learned from my last roommate. She was one of the only people I've ever known who actually lit her scented candles. I have used up a lot of ballpoint pens in my day but that was the first time I'd ever seen someone burn a big jar candle down to the nubs. It's a silly little thing maybe, but it inspired me to use the "nice" makeup and perfume, wear the "special" dresses, and make the "fancy" recipes on a more regular basis. That kind of thing has (to some degree) made me feel more positive about pursuing hobbies in the here-and-now rather than waiting for some perfect future opportunity. And thus I think it's contributed that little bit to increased seraphicity (?).

Seraphic said...

Exactly! And not only that, but I think if someone can get the "things are for using up" part right, he or she might be more likely to get the "but people are for cherishing" part right, too. It's one of those things that distinguish love from lust and respect from exploitation or abuse (like in employer-employee relationships).

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more both with the excellent post and with Jam's comment. Also, they made me think about things.
When one Christmas my unsuspecting uncle lit up my lovely house-shaped candle that I've had since early childhood and burnt down its chimney, I cried and very poorly hid my rage and was quite sulky - which now strucks me as not only un-lady-like, but also very petty and more respectful to the candle than to the uncle, which probably isn't a good thing.
I'm a kind of person who gets much too attached to things on one hand and on the other has always been of the opinion that if a book appears used and even worn-out it only shows the good times we've had together... The result is I tend to destroy my things quickly - I use up at least two or three pairs of earphones per annum - and get emotional when I have to part ways with a favourite sweater that lost its color or with a memorabilia that has no sentimental value except for that I've had it for years. And this kind of imbalance, like imbalance in any other field of life, is never good. How you look at things is somehow linked with how you look at people, in ways that, to me, seem unexpected.
But where using people is concerned, I think it might not be that obvious even in non-romance-related areas of a Single life. You have written many times about not letting other people use you just because you're single... But I think it's worth underlining again that Singles might be prone to using people, too. Especially those who have been single for a long time sometimes tend not to understand family problems of their not-single friends, or even of their own families; they might not feel responsible for their loved ones, but expect them to feel resonsible for their Single realtive. And subject of using people is extra sensitive when it comes to friendships (and those are so important to a Single gal, right?); there's sometimes a thin line between talking through your problems with a girlfiend (or maybe sister, mother, auntie...) and using her as a therapist, without being actually interested in her life, too. And then, if you're really un-seraphic about your singleness, you might be prone to using people just because you "have no practice" with relationships or "don't want to waste time" on relations that don't "satisfy" you.
Well, these are all pretty basic, I think. I suppose many "wrong things to do" you've talked about could be called using people. It's a result of egoism and that is an exact opposite of Christian love... So it actually boils down to moulding a healthy, loving attitude to all people in oneself; my point is sometimes we might not even realise our attitude isn't healthy... Which once again boils down to Auntie Seraphic's Teachings - on living reality and seeing people for who they are.

Anonymous said...

Well... I guess, as usual, thoughts I've tried to convey through my incredibly long and convoluted, vague comment you've managed to say clearly, better-wordedly and spot-on in your three-sentence one, Seraphic :) That's, basically, where I was trying to go with it and once again, I couldn't agree more ^^


Domestic Diva said...

This reminds me of my great-grandmother, who bought a dress she loved for the extravagant price (for that time) of $100. She saved the dress for a special occasion that never came, and when she died (in 1978) she had never worn the $100 dress. So her children decided to bury her in it. When they went to her closet, there was the $100 dress, with the price tags still on it...and moths had eaten holes in it and ruined it.
This story has become family lore, and we have all learned the lesson: if you have it, use it & enjoy it, lest it become the $100 dress of your life.
(But it's understood that we are talking about things and not people!)

Seraphic said...

Great story!

In many countries we now have labour laws so that employers will never again be able to treat employees like serfs. And I believe that in English-speaking armies (at very least) soldiers cannot simply be used as cannon fodder. And of course there are laws to protect boys and girls, including teenage boys and girls, from predatory adults.

But once you are over 18, and they are over 18, it all gets complicated. Beauty also makes it complicated. It must be frustrating for the Objectively Beautiful to have to deal with people who constantly see only their beautiful faces and not them themselves. But at the same time, the reality of erotic love means that one wants to possess the beloved, or be possessed by a lover, and it seems to me to be a difficult balancing act.

However, love helps very much, because true love is always desiring the good of the other, which is to say, the other's good. If you strongly desire the other's good, or certainly to put it above your own selfish impulses, then you are very unlikely to use them as the means to an end, whatever that end may be, like the thrills that go with emotional entanglements.

sciencegirl said...

One of the happy turning-points in my life was the day I started using the fancy lotions and soaps I had been accumulating as presents.

Some of them gave me instant eczema and were thrown out, but others gave me many pleasurable uses.

I also found, thanks to a friend, that these gifts can be used to be social. We both had loads of fancy toiletries, so we started doing spa nights with our other friends. It was so relaxing and fun! Much better than just buying the 12-pack of Dove while the box of fancy soaps lingered in my closet.

Anonymous said...

Omelette recipes! Yay!

I have a bottle of Veuve Cliquot that has been hanging around since Spring 2011. It was the last birthday present that my grandfather (and his cat, now my cat) gave to me, and I am not quite ready to put all that in the past. So it stays in its orange box, in climate-controlled comfort, waiting for me to be ready to enjoy it. For I won't drink it until I will enjoy drinking it, as it was given to me in that expectation.

That aside - what was it on Facebook the other day? Things are meant to be used, and people are meant to be loved, and the problems of the world stem from loving things and using people.


Not Seraphic Yet said...

Very true. And yet sometimes I still feel utterly *wasted* as a single woman. It is hard to believe that you could love someone very deeply and make him very happy and know that you may never get a chance.

...I suppose at least I can console myself with my scented candles, which I do burn all the way down.

Seraphic said...

Not Seraphic Yet, I understand how you feel, and remember standing in my parents' house emoting, "I am a a fruit withering on the VINE!" My father, the witness to this scene, was both amused and distressed. At any rate, I met my husband soon after that, so the short answer is "You just never know."