Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Aldo, the alligator

My young son asked me what happens after we die. I told him we get buried under a bunch of dirt and worms eat our bodies. I guess I should have told him the truth—that most of us go to hell and burn eternally—but I didn’t want to upset him.—Deep thoughts by Jack Handey

Last Thursday, while reading the Business Mirror, I came across a curious “how-to” advertisement from “Joy,” the toilet paper that stays “Strong even when wet.”

On the advertisement’s upper left corner, above the drawing of an alligator origami, are the words “Aldo The Alligator.” To the right and below Aldo are 16 diagrams that illustrate his evolution in reverse sequential order, from alligator to a single sheet of toilet paper.

I tried to make my own little Aldo by following the diagrams in their proper order, from sheet to alligator. It looked like an easy task. But that was before I discovered that toilet paper does not fold well and tears apart when creased. Sheet happens. But I persisted anyway.

I went through sheets of Joy before it finally dawned on me that maybe the trick is to wet the paper before folding and creasing it. (I remembered the ad claiming Joy was strong even when wet.) And so I tried it. And so I learned that wet Joy can be molded but it cannot be folded and creased into an alligator.

I gave up on the project. It was an exercise in futility. It left me so frustrated I ended up reflecting on the two most-asked existential questions of modern times: “Briefs or boxers?” and “Folded or wadded?”

“Briefs or boxers?” determined the outcome of the 1992 US presidential election. Candidate Bill Clinton said he wore briefs. He won the election.

(That historical tidbit could be useful to our 2010 presidential candidates. Except to Jamby, I hope.)

The existential question closer to the topic at hand—“Folded or wadded?”—has not figured in any presidential campaign so far. But it has been the subject of serious gender studies.

Research shows that the handling of toilet paper is determined by gender. Males fold, females wad. However, the research was done when the world still believed there were only two genders.

Today the world knows better. But it does not yet know what the other genders do with toilet paper. Do they fold it, wad it, or fwad it?

Anyway, that’s for researchers to find out. I am more concerned about the ethical and moral consequences of turning toilet paper into origami.

Would it be okay to use origami as toilet paper? Should we include origami in the “folded, wadded or fwadded” question? Is that the way to treat art? Most important of all, does the Church allow intimate contact with an origami?

But even if we assume that a toilet-paper origami is not a work of art, we are still faced with a moral conundrum.

The origami alligator has a name—Aldo. That makes it a pet. One would never eat his pet. It’s taboo. So, why would it be all right to use one’s pet as toilet paper?

Let’s move on. On to the famous homily of Fr. Roland Moraleja at a special Mass concelebrated by 22 priests on the day Gloria Arroyo filed her certificate of candidacy for representative of the Second District of Pampanga.

Father Roland told Madam Gloria, “Do not believe you are diminishing the power of the President. Ating metung a taung migbaba ba yang sumuyo—I Kristo [There was a person who came down to serve us—Jesus Christ].”

I wanted to say more or less the same thing—“Do not believe that Aldo is something more than just a piece of artfully folded industrial- strength toilet paper. Aldo is not Jesus Christ”—but I didn’t want to upset anybody.

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