Friday, March 21, 2008

Warning: This blog contains traces of Peanuts

I've being doing some blogging over at the newly redesigned News-Leader.com. Today, I present to you a cross-post of my latest over there:

Lately I've been getting back into one of my earliest obsessions: Peanuts (the comic strip, not the legume, though that goes great on a sandwich). I'm currently reading "The Complete Peanuts: 1965 to 1966." It's a bit before my time (as in, my mom was 12 then), but you could say I was born to love Charlie Brown:

blog post photo
"It's a blockhead!"

I've always identified with good ol' Chuck. He's a persistent goof who wants so bad to be good at everything that he should never be allowed to do (such as playing sports, flying kites and talking to redheads), and has endured a lot of teasing from friends who are nevertheless always there for him. He tries and keeps trying, and that's what matters. Inspirational stuff.

"Peanuts" is a great comic strip on many levels: it's fun and enjoyable for kids, but it's also built with a solid layer of proto-Calvin wisdom that keeps you hooked as an adult. Looking back at strips from the 1960s, you have to marvel at how subversive Charles Schulz could be. Artists across the creative spectrum owe more to him than they'll ever know. Heck, so do non-artists.

Another striking quality of the Peanuts kids - the one that's really been in my head lately - is that they're active. Yes, the Van Pelts watch a lot of TV and Snoopy rests his rounded belly on top of his doghouse, etc. But they also play baseball, go to camp, throw snowballs and have almost disturbingly active imaginations. It's what we want in our young people. Heck, even in ourselves.

Now I'm certainly not one to be nostalgic for some romanticized notion of "the good old days." As depressing as this decade has been, I wouldn't trade it to live in the segregated 1950s, the drafty 1960s or the seventyish '70s (though I might trade it for the 1980s or the 1990s, because those were the good old days).

But as the Peanuts crew reminds me, there was a time when everyone in the world wasn't always glued to a cell phone, or sitting at home on their computer, or texting while driving. It was a nice time when people went outside for sunshine and occasionally talked to someone in person. And even if kids never really spoke in the advanced philosophical vernacular of Charlie Brown and his posse, neither was their main form of conversation some variation of "kthxbai."

It's not impossible to balance today's excellent digital gadgetry with an active lifestyle. When I was in grad school, a bunch of us overeducated Internet addicts would get together every week and play volleyball, racquetball, basketball or go swimming. We'd alternate between stimulating conversation and acting like children. In a sense, we WERE the Peanuts characters. And, yes, I was the Charlie Brown. Ever seen me pitch?

As odd as this sounds coming from a blogger enjoying the new tools of News-Leader.com (and I do enjoy it), we need more of that old-school interaction. With so much going on in the world, let's get to know each other as people. As this online community shows, we're willing and eager to talk to each other. Now, let's get to KNOW each other. It's the first step toward getting over our divisions as a society.

And, yes, your dog WILL be allowed.

1 comment:

rhonda said...

very nice piece. i just miss you.