Msgr. Charles Pope: A Survivor of a Once Dangerous World (As Seen on TV)

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By Msgr. Charles Pope, November 23, 2018 

In the video below, an old comedy routine by Mad TV shows how many modern sensibilities where non-existent, even just fifty years ago. A pregnant mother is shown having a Martini and smoking. Children are shown riding bikes without head gear, etc. Of course, like most comedy, and like all Mad TV spoofs, the topic is taken to excess for sheer humor of hyperbole.

Nevertheless, most of us who are fifty or older lived in a “dangerous” world and survived. You’ve probably heard the usual list:

I survived:

  • Drinking from a garden hose

  • Second-hand smoke

  • Running in the misty cloud when the DDT spray truck went by

  • Toy guns

  • Spankings

  • Paddling in school

  • Praying school!

  • Lead paint

  • No seatbelts

  • No bike helmets

  • Recess on asphalt playgrounds with metal monkey bars and swings

  • Not every kid making the team

  • Not everyone receiving an award

One of the items on that list seems incredible to some, but I am a witness and survivor of running in the cloud of the DDT truck. The cloud had a sweet but pungent order and we were told it was no harm. If you think I am lying, here is a picture of mine at the left. Sure enough, we never got sick. It was a little bit like sniffing newly mimeographed paper as the teacher handed it out; a strange but pleasant odor. In the 1970s DDT was demonized and banned. Scientists still debate if we lost more lives (to mosquitos) by banning it, than the gains made in a purer environment. I leave that debate to them. But for the record, I am a survivor!

The spiritual point I make is one of moderation. Today, based on what we know, I do not say that pregnant women should drink martinis or smoke. I do not say children should not wear helmets, drink from garden hoses or that seatbelts are not important. Rather, I caution against an absolutizing of safety concerns to the degree that we become dainty or all too precious; the degree that we become all too fearful. Life involves risks, and perfect safety is not to be found. Many of the things on the list and in the video below, I did, experienced and suffered, and I survived. In order to live we must take certain risks. A life too obsessed with dangers and artificially imposed limits can smother and restrict. Some of the modern preoccupation with safety and for a life without any rebukes or challenges is an outcrop of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and a desire for excessive comfort and reassurance.

As you view this video remember, it is comedy, and comedy is funny because it is partially true and also because it is “over the top.”