My younger brother Will doesn’t mess around when it comes to pursuing his passions. When he got into pipes, he didn’t just buy a pipe and a coat with tweed patches on the elbows. He learned how to carve pipes and spent time in the hills of Italy digging up briar with a master craftsman renown in the art. When he got interested in the acoustic guitar I sucked at he didn’t just take a few lessons, he started a band, played the Apollo Theater and opened for Wilco. I love him for that and am constantly inspired by his unrelenting pursuit of the things he cares about.
Except when he turned that laser focus toward herpetology. (Wow, I spelled that word right the first time. I’ve never in my life spelled “potential” right the first time, but apparently I can bust out herpetology all day long. I digress.)
Herpetology, from the Greek word herpeton, which means “creeping animal,” (how scary is that) is defined as “the study of amphibians and reptiles.” Another way to define it is:
“Wow, we sure do have a lot of snakes in our house. How come they keep escaping from their tanks? Is it weird that you can order a rattlesnake from a catalog? Can you really call an animal that occasionally enjoys biting you in the neck a ‘pet?'”
Granted, my version is a little longer, but it’s definitely an accurate definition of life at my house when my brother started collecting and eventually breeding snakes. I don’t hate snakes. I think they’re fascinating and beautiful when I see them in someone else’s yard or behind glass. But when one is lose inside the walls of your house, growing perhaps grumpy and more powerful, that tends to change your opinion of them. Which is why when I heard that St. Patrick is best known for banishing all snakes from Ireland, I applauded his efforts.
I am admittedly not a great student of the Saints, but to my awareness, none of the others banished any sort of animal from another country. I thought maybe that St. Polycarp had something to do with carps. I mean that’s a pretty easy mistake to make, but according to the Internets, nope, no carp in his background.
Then, much to my dismay, on the very same Google search, I found out that St. Patrick didn’t have anything to do with snakes. I’m not sure if Ireland is still serpent infested, but that whole snake thing is a myth. And at this point, as Atlanta gears up to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with events like “Kegs & Eggs” and green beer-a-thons, it feels like March 17th was officially purchased by Guinness. (If they’d like to buy Booty, God, Booty day from me, that’s for sale. I’ll make up some tale about me eradicating all the squirrels from Georgia using trained platypuses or platypi.)
So I’m not sure if as Christians we’re supposed to be officially down with Saint Patrick’s Day or indifferent or something in between. Should I be wearing a green sweater today or give St. Patrick the same level of thought I currently give St. Polycarp? Which I confess on an average day isn’t a whole lot.
Can we get a ruling on this one?
Are you celebrating St. Patrick’s Day today?