A Survivor of a Once Dangerous World

In the video below, a comedy routine from Mad TV shows how many modern notions were non-existent even just fifty years ago. In the sketch, a pregnant mother drinks a martini and smokes a cigarette; children ride bikes without wearing helmets. Of course, like a lot of comedy, the topic is taken to excess for effect.

Nevertheless, most of us who are older grew up in a “dangerous” world and managed to survive. You’ve probably seen lists like this one:

I survived: 

    • drinking from a garden hose,
    • breathing second-hand smoke,
    • running in the misty cloud when the DDT spray truck went by,
    • playing with toy guns,
    • being spanked,
    • paddling in school,
    • praying in school,
    • lead paint,
    • not wearing a seatbelt,
    • not wearing a bike helmet,
    • playing in asphalt playgrounds with metal monkey bars and swings,
    • not every kid making the team,
    • not everyone receiving an award.

I can personally attest to the item about running in the cloud of spray behind the DDT truck. The cloud had a sweet, pungent order; we were told it wasn’t harmful and sure enough, none of us ever got sick from it. At left is a picture of mine to prove that I’m not lying! It was a little bit like the smell of newly mimeographed paper as the teacher handed it out—a strange but pleasant odor. DDT was banned in the 1970s and scientists still debate whether the lives lost (to mosquito-borne diseases) as a result of banning it outweighed the gains made by a purer environment. I leave that debate to them, but for the record, I am a survivor!

The spiritual point I would like to make is one of moderation. I am not recommending that pregnant women drink or smoke. I am not saying that children should stop wearing bike helmets or that seatbelts are unimportant. Rather, I caution against prioritizing safety concerns to the degree that we become too fearful. Life involves risks, and there is no such thing as complete safety.

I lived through many of the things on the list above and depicted in the sketch. In order to live we must take certain risks. A life too obsessed with dangers and too constrained by artificially imposed limits can smother and restrict. Some of the modern preoccupation with safety and for a life without any rebukes or challenges comes from a desire for excessive comfort and reassurance.

Comedy like that depicted in the video below is funny because while over the top, it also has many elements of truth.

3 Replies to “A Survivor of a Once Dangerous World”

  1. “Out of an abundance of caution” seems to be the new doctrine. It’s apparently meant to convey an overly smothering sense of safety and reassurance. I cringe spiritually and physically every time I hear it and know what follows will be some foolish new rule or ridiculous limit to activity. But, it must make everyone feel safe and tucked in so to speak. That phrase and mindset has been our downfall.

  2. The good old days. I remember the ruler on the hands by my third grade teacher, a Nun. She was extremely accurate with an eraser, too. I remember when it could fix any problem with my “88 Olds”. Gas was 25 cents a gallon and we could go to the movies for 50 cents and get 2 meals at McDonalds for 2.50. Complete date for under $ 6.00 with a full tank of gas. My Kids do not believe me when I tell them this.

    Plus I remember having to write 250 times on the blackboard “I WILL NOT TALK IN CLASS” while Sister was grading papers.

    The good old days.

    Thanks so much Fr Grabner

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