Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Reprobate Reprobatus

            I was away from the gym for a mere two weeks, but that was long enough for major developments to develop, majorly.  It turns out that the guy whose job it is to open the front doors of Dillon Gym to allow ingress to the milling crowd of impatient jocks precisely at six thirty had been three or four minutes late for the last few days.  Indeed, it was grumbled about, three or four minutes of lateness seemed to be the “new normal”.  The old normal, which we had enjoyed through the last weeks of the summer, was four or five minutes of earliness, so I thought this might simply even things out.  Others were less forgiving.  One early bird reported that he had drawn this fellow’s dereliction to his attention and asked, “What happened?”  His only response, a cryptic one, had been “§ife happened.”  There was a disagreement among the auditors as to whether the first letter was an L or a W.

            So when he arrived on Monday about forty-eight seconds late, I piled on.  “Good morning, reprobate” was my cheerful and of course facetious greeting.  There was no response, as in blank stare.  Perhaps he didn’t hear me, but my friend and fellow heel-cooler Gary did.  What did you call him?” he asked.  This man has a Ph.D. in molecular biology, but he was unfamiliar with the word reprobate.  He opined that it is probably easier to get by insulting people if the insults are incomprehensible to the insulted.  Maybe so.  I was reminded of a great Q and A joke:
            Question: what is the difference between a mafia don and a deconstructionist?
            Answer:  The deconstructionist makes you an offer you can’t understand.

            This anecdote may be meaningless to you, but it gives me an opportunity to get back to my Wednesday schedule.  For not only do I know the meaning of the word reprobate, but I know more than I should about Saint Christopher (Reprobatus).  I had to learn about him in detail some years ago when I was working on Columbus.  Christopher/Reprobatus was rudely given the hook by the Second Vatican Council back in the early Sixties, leading to a continuing glut of cheap Christopher-medals on eBay, but I want to bring him back.

            Here is the beautiful legend.  A long time ago (doubtless also far away) there was a giant wandering about by the name of Reprobatus.  He would have been your run-of-the-mill giant, except for one somewhat unusual circumstance.  Atop his gigantic human body he had a dog’s head.  Reprobatus was in fact a cynocephalus (i.e., dog-head).  Thereby hangs a tale (as well as a tail), though one irrelevant to this post.  I will allow myself the very modest digression of saying that when Columbus reported finding cannibals in the New World, he was actually talking not about anthropophagy but about cynocephalism. 

St. Christopher sniffs the incense

            Reprobatus wanted to serve the most powerful king on earth, and set out to find him.  He did uncover a number of extremely powerful dudes, but each of them, he eventually discovered, actually lived in fear of a ruler more potent yet: Satan, the devil.  There is always a “Help Wanted” sign up in Satan’s window, so that Reprobatus had no difficulty in finding employment as his retainer.  He seems to have spent some time in his domestic service before discovering, apparently by accident, that Satan, too, trembled before a mightier power.  He shook with fear at the sign of the cross.  So Reprobatus set off in search of the Christ.

            The Christ proved a little more difficult to find than Satan, but the mere intention to seek him out had a marvelous effect on the giant’s physiognomy.  His dog’s head was immediately transposed into a handsome human head, though of course one of gigantic size proportionate with his giant’s body. 

            For Reprobatus decaninization was the necessary prelude to canonization.  He was continuing his search for Christ when he came upon a small boy at the edge of a body of water he apparently wished to cross.  The giant picked him up, put him on his shoulder, and set off into the stream.  Only then did he realize that of all the gigantic tasks he had undertaken in his life, this was the most arduous.  He moved doggedly on, but he felt as though the whole weight of the world was upon his shoulders.  That is because it was.  The young child he had picked up, all unknowing, was the Christ Child, who bore upon his own shoulders, as he would upon the cross, the enormous weight of the sins of mankind.

            Reprobatus had earlier changed heads.  Now he changed names.  The suffix fer (from Latin fero, “to carry”) means “bearer” or “carrier”.  Henceforth Reprobatus would be Christopher, the Christ-bearer, the one who carried Christ.  Christopher Columbus invented a fancy signature in which he calls himself “Xpo-FERENS”, using the present participle.