I am not your friendly neighborhood optimist. There are times when I wish I could be, but I was the kid who asked the catechism teacher* (*but NOT any of the teachers who were also nuns) where the bathroom is in heaven. I’m probably the only person on the planet twisted enough to ask that question, but it has a rational foundation. It’s always wise to know the proximity of the nearest crapper, and as much as I would hope eliminatory functions will not be necessary in the next life, I figure if there’s toilets in church, then the need for commodes might just transcend the Great Beyond. It would be my luck.
There was indoor plumbing in the late Victorian era, but only rich folks had it. Poor folks had to use the outhouse. My grandparents didn’t get indoor plumbing until the late 1950′s. No, I am not that old. I wasn’t born until the late 1960′s, so I don’t know about their particular outhouse from personal experience. The closest I ever got to a real outhouse was having to use the latrines at the Girl Scout Camp and the State Parks and/or Porto Johns. That was bad enough.
For the uninitiated, outhouses may contain snakes, spiders, biting insects such as wasps and hornets, raccoons, mice and possums, or a combination of all of the above. Non-venomous snakes don’t really phase me. I have a ball python. Jerry has a rather tempermental red-tail boa. But pythons and boas are constrictors. They can bite you and that’s not fun, but generally a bite from a constrictor will simply leave you with a few puncture wounds- not much worse than a cat scratch. It’s rare for constrictors that are handled to bite unless they’re hungry and you smell like food.
Venomous snakes are quite another matter. I pretty much know what the “harmless” snakes, such as garter snakes, ball pythons, boas, rat snakes, etc. look like. Rattlesnakes and copperheads are NOT snakes to be handled unless you know what the hell you’re doing, and even those people get bit rather often and sometimes die from it.
Perhaps I shouldn’t mock the snake handlers, but I think the Lord gives out something called “discernment,” and He would rather see people use that to avoid doing dangerous things, instead of people doing irrational things that increase the chances of them earning their Darwin Awards.
The thing I never really understood about snake handling is how is it any different from any other risky behavior? Did Jesus tell people to get drunk and drive, or to run with scissors? It just doesn’t make much sense. Thankfully the snake handling tradition is obscure and it takes its origin from the long ending of the Gospel of Mark, that does not occur in all of the original manuscripts:
“And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” Mark 16:16-18 (NRSV)
I don’t take that snippet from the Gospel of Mark as a directive for going out and deliberately picking up rattlesnakes and copperheads or swilling poison for something to do, but I wasn’t raised in Appalachia or in the Pentecostal tradition. I was raised with old-school Catholicism, which is plenty scary enough, even without venomous snakes or cyanide being involved. We had to deal with nuns. Most of the really creepy stuff associated with Catholicism has to do with the whole business of praying to the dead, people getting the stigmata, and exorcisms, and other way out supernatural freaky kinds of things. I don’t disbelieve in the supernatural, but I do believe that when the spirit world makes itself known here on earth that it’s usually demons and such behind it, and I’d rather steer way clear of that noise.
So, maybe I’m the only one to have made the inquiry regarding the necessity of the loo in the Great Beyond. Maybe not. I’m not the only one who wondered why people’s clothes stayed clean on Gilligan’s Island even though they didn’t have either washing machines nor access to Tide.