Ah, to be young again.
When I was a kid girls would get Barbies on their birthdays, and boys would get…..chemistry sets.
We were all science-y back then. We were going to the moon. After that, within a few years we were going to Mars. Then on to the next solar system, where we would find aliens and the UFO riddles would finally be solved. By that time – sometime in the early 21st century! – travel would be by a personal supersonic vehicle of some kind. Nuclear powered! Don’t worry, the extra neutrons would be shielded with lead!
So the point is, we had to know our science for this new space age. And to keep us interested in that, even our toys and playthings were all about science. And so we got chemistry sets.
The best laid plans of mice and men, however. Boys being relatively unchanged since the previous century, or for that matter the century before that, and notwithstanding all the whiz bang plans our elders had for us, it was universally understood by virtually every boy of that era that a chemistry set served one and only one purpose:
to enable us to make something that would explode.
This had the dual attraction both of being a desideratum in and of itself, and also being forbidden knowledge, because of course it was also universally understood that our elders did not want us blowing things up with our chemistry sets, or even learning how. How foolish our elders were, thinking that we could be easily deterred and cattle-chuted into only acceptable chemistry set orthodoxy.
But for us Catholic boys, forbidden knowledge wasn’t confined merely to science. The Church and all of its ancient rules and mysteries were yet another cornucopia of potential mischief, of things you weren’t allowed to know. Chief among these was the mysterious idea of the “sin against the Holy Spirit”, the one sin that could not be forgiven either here or in the hereafter.