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I Got a Rock

Posted by on Nov 9, 2012 in Creativity, Kaizen-Muse | 8 comments

Last night, I caught up on a Halloween tradition that was postponed by Hurricane Sandy: I watched It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. (For those of you overseas, this Halloween special aired every year without fail for many years on US network TV—for those of us who grew up with it, it’s just not Halloween without it.)

As I watched, I was struck by the attitudes and lessons we get from Charlie Brown, Linus, and Snoopy. I could be reading into things too much, but here’s what I saw:

Charlie Brown

Charlie Brown is an almost tragic figure. Nothing in his life seems to go right. If you stop and think about it, it’s a wonder poor Charlie even manages to get through his day (but no shock whatsoever that, by the time the holidays roll around, he’s so desperate that he’s willing to give Lucy five cents to help him out).

The thing is, he does get through his day. Charlie Brown has every difficulty a kid could have, from absent parents to his attempts to talk to the Little Red-Haired Girl, but he soldiers on. He never seems to let it get to him for very long (except for that desperate Christmas moment). His approach seems to be: encounter injustice, feel whatever you feel about it, then let it go and move on.

I know—he’s just a cartoon character, and that philosophy sounds simple. But I also know I have yet to master it myself, so I have to give him credit where it’s due. After all, how many of us would have the determination and optimism that lets Charlie Brown try to kick that football over and over again? Or to keep trick-or-treating even though he gets a rock at every house? When life hands you lemons, it seems to me you could do worse than ask, “What would Charlie Brown do?”

Linus

1x1.trans I Got a RockLinus has the most faith and philosophical depth of any Peanuts character. Between his belief in the Great Pumpkin, which he maintains while everyone else laughs at him, and the way he recounts the Biblical Christmas story in A Charlie Brown Christmas, Linus isn’t your average kid. Charlie Brown may have the Zen thing down, but for me at least, Linus is the heart and soul of the Peanuts crew.

Are you willing to have faith in yourself in the face of ridicule, physical hardship, and failure? Anyone who dares to dream big dreams is going to find out in a hurry. If you’re dreaming of making money as an artist, for instance, your first hurdle is probably the reactions of friends and family who believe the conventional wisdom that you’re doomed to fail because “art doesn’t make money.” And a lot of people stop right there, deciding it’s not worth it (and then spending the rest of their lives pushing against that deep-seated desire to go do what they love anyway).

Linus, on the other hand, believes in the Great Pumpkin no matter what. He writes him a letter. He finds the perfect, “most sincere” pumpkin patch. And then he waits, into the dead of night, even after all his friends come to take him trick-or-treating. He falls asleep there, wrapped in his blanket and shivering. Nothing deters Linus from his quest except for a big sister who hauls him inside in the wee hours so he doesn’t freeze to death. Even then, Linus isn’t giving up on next year.

Unexamined devotion can be tricky, and it’s good to question yourself here and there to be sure you’re heading in the right direction. But once you’ve decided to pursue that goal, dedication and determination may be exactly what you need to get there, especially when everyone’s telling you you’re crazy. Stick to your guns and one day, the Great Pumpkin will turn up as promised. (Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coaching™ is really great at helping you hang in there, by the way!)

On a side note, if you’ve not seen Linus singing “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic,” you owe it to yourself! It’s better than Prozac.

Snoopy

1x1.trans I Got a RockSnoopy takes Halloween as far as he can. The World War I Flying Ace doesn’t just dress the part, he lives it. He climbs up on his doghouse and is off fighting the Red Baron and crossing rivers in Europe. There’s something fabulous about the way he immerses himself in his WWI identity and then lets it go when he doesn’t need it anymore, and it’s worth trying.

KMCC also uses this idea—we call it working with personas. Let’s say you’re trying out a new job, or a new creative project, and you’re feeling a little intimidated by it. “Am I really A Novelist?” you ask, feeling like a fake. If you can take five minutes to really let yourself be A Novelist, you can try the role on and see what happens. Maybe you turn into a caricature of the stereotypical novelist and have a good laugh at yourself. Maybe you find that you’re not sure what A Novelist feels like and decide that you want to try just being You, Writing a Book. Maybe you hit on unexpected inspiration. In any case, giving yourself permission to try something new on broadens your world and lets you taste that goal you’re aiming for.

The next time you’re in need of a little creative inspiration, take a page from your favorite Peanuts character. And if you need some backup, give me a shout!

8 Comments

  1. Remember the days when you could only see Charlie Brown specials on the one night each year that they were aired? That made them even more special. I’d look forward to them for days in advance. The Great Pumpkin was my favorite, although I loved the skating scene and Vince Guaraldi music in A Charlie Brown Christmas too. I love your character analysis here and Every Little Thing She Does is Magic is a hoot and a delight! Thanks for brightening my day with this, Nancy!
    Sue Mitchell recently posted..No Posts Were Found!My Profile

    • I do remember those days, Sue! When they’d come on CBS with that rotating “SPECIAL!” logo, and we’d all gather around the TV. I’m not sure which was my favorite, but I loved showing them to my ESL kids when I was teaching, both for the vocabulary and the culture (and, well, for the fun!). They usually recognized Snoopy, at the very least.

      The Linus videos are works of real genius (and, I imagine, labors of love). I cannot be unhappy or sit still when one is playing! :)

      • Get this, Nancy. In the school district where I work, we do a screening test with all third graders for the gifted and talented program. Part of it is verbal analogies, and one of the test items included the word “beagle.” The most-asked question kids had was, “What’s a beagle?” I thought, “Oh my god! Do you not know SNOOPY??!!!” The times they are a-changin’. (They wouldn’t get that reference either…sigh.)
        Sue Mitchell recently posted..How Creative Geeks Helped Re-Elect ObamaMy Profile

        • Oh man…that’s like the kids I taught who not only hadn’t seen Star Wars but recoiled at the idea of watching it. Never mind that the characters and plot are woven into our culture so much that not knowing who they are would be a handicap. I was stunned! But if it makes you feel any better, one of my Chinese girls was a HUGE Snoopy fan, to where people started using “Snoopy” as a nickname. There’s hope!

  2. I especially love Snoopy’s audacity! Thanks for a great post and Peanuts character smiles and creative inspiration!

    • I love Snoopy taking the WWI thing all the way, too. Snoopy rocks. :)

  3. I love this post, Nancy. I’m a firm believer that stories of all kinds – books, comics, TV shows and movies – are the modern myths and legends that teach us about ourselves and each other.

    One of the other Goddess Circle members – it might have been Elinor – had an AWESOME series earlier this year about the various life lessons she’d taken from science fiction TV shows – this reminds me a lot of those, but with a uniquely Peanuts twist.

    Thanks for an enjoyable read

    TANJA
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    • I agree with you about modern myths and legends. I mean, what’s Harry Potter if not that?

      And don’t even get me started on lessons from science fiction. This geek could go on for quite a while about that! :)

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