This week's entry is from the November 11-17, 1967 issue (the one with Yvette Mimieux on the cover, for you collectors). Near the end of the issue is a brief compliation of quotes from the newsman Harry Reasoner. For those of you too young to remember (and I suspect that's most of you), Harry Reasoner was for many years one of the staples of CBS News. He was the original co-host, along with Mike Wallace, of 60 Minutes. Tired of waiting for Walter Cronkite to retire, he jumped to ABC in 1970, where he co-anchored the evening news with Howard K. Smith. In 1976 he had the misfortune to be teamed with Barbara Walters on the ABC Evening News, where he gained something of a reputation as a misogynist (although it was more likely exasperation at Walters' lack of hard-news ability. He returned to CBS in 1978, and died in 1991.
All that said, it's much more interesting to listen to what Reasoner had to say. Some of his quotes - the ones you can find in the quotations section online - are merely humorous ("Statistics are to baseball what a flaky crust is to Mom's apple pie.") but the ones I'm interested in are those where he shows an intriguing insight into the future.
Of the excerpts in the article, this is the one I think is most interesting, considering our mania today for avoiding risk - antibacterial soap, kids wearing helmets to take walks, all kinds of rules, regulations, and lawsuits - and our obsession with youth and fad diets. It comes under the category "Life and Death":
The idea of trying to outguess life, to avoid everything that might conceivably injure your life, is a peculiarly dangerous one. Pretty soon you are existing in a morass of fear. A man makes a sort of deal with life, he gives up things because they are undignified or immoral; if life asks him to cringe in front of all reasonable indulgence, he may at the end say life is not worth it. Because for the cringing he may get one day extra or none; he never gets eternity.I particularly like the last line; it makes a point that often goes unsaid. Death is an intregal part of life; while you don't particularly go looking for it, neither should you shy away from it. For Christians, death is not something to be feared; St. Paul was often torn between his calling as an evangelist and his desire for eternity with Our Lord.
I think our obsession with immortality today has a lot to do with our culture's loss of faith. Death implies an end, a finishing point. Perhaps, if those crazy Christians are right, a judgment. Since we don't believe in being judgmental nowadays, it's no wonder that we should also disapprove of being judged. Of course, that disapproval is more likely a fear of what the judgment might be.
But without death there are no consequences to life - you can do whatever you want, whenever you want, as long as you want. Oh, you might get caught doing something you shouldn't do, but in the absence of defying death, that's about all the thrill there is to life. Anyway, if you're clever, you'll probably get away with it. Americans are a forgiving lot anyway - just look at our role models.
One of the strongest reasons in support of the death penalty is the idea that a man, confronted with his potential date of death (something few of us get), is forced to confront the meaning of his life, and it is this desire to "get right" with life that often produces the most genuine conversions. Death penalty opponents often remark that execution cuts off a potentially useful life; I find the idea that it concentrates the conversion process to be more compelling.
I appear to have gotten kind of far afield, haven't I? Anyway, I'll post some more of Harry Reasoner's comments throughout this week. They're refreshing, prescient, and they make you think.