Never Enough Time to Do All the Nothing You Want
Over the weekend we spotted a documentary about the impact of a comic strip.
Yep. A comic strip. No, not a comic book, not like Captain America or Iron Man but a strip that you used to seen in the papers. Calvin and Hobbes.
Dear Mr. Watterson was the documentary, so named because of the author of the strip, Bill Watterson. The creator is a bit of a recluse now. He felt he’d come to the end of his creative run on the strip and decided, just like that, after ten years, to just . . . stop. I guess he’s a painter somewhere in the Northeastern US now, happy I suppose. He never marketed his stuff. (Those stickers you see of Calvin peeing on a Ford/Toyota/GM/Dodge logo are all unlicensed and made by someone else. He never authorized it, neither did the syndicate who distributed it.)
It’s one of those times that, even though there wasn’t any animation, no talking cartoons, just a bunch of animators and other fans on the screen, my three kids sat on the couch and watched it, beginning to end.
It wasn’t the documentary, though, that got me thinking. It was about two hours later that my son came downstairs.
“Look what I found!” He was giddy as he came around the corner.
In his hands . . . every Calvin and Hobbes book I’d ever owned. Without realizing it, I’d managed to pack those with all the other books and there they were, worn, covers faded, corners folded, and sitting there. Titles like “The Lazy Sunday Book”; “Weirdos from Another Planet”; and my personal favorite: “Scientific Progress Goes Boink?!”
I know what some of you might think, what is he doing with a bunch of books of comic strips? But you don’t realize what was so different about this particular strip from all the others. This wasn’t Garfield, which I’ll admit I enjoyed as a kid. This was different.
Calvin was a kid who lived in his head. He had ideas and delusions of grandeur and when he walked out into the world it was even bigger than the world his diminutive form saw. He saw alien worlds and cliffs to dive off and thought of life as an adventure. Sound familiar? This is pretty much how we started seeing things over the last three years . . . though without the dangerous chances and horrible repercussions. I have more of Calvin’s Dad in me than Calvin himself, I suppose.
As a kid…I lived in my head just as much. I had asthma, and then it wasn’t as common as it is now. I couldn’t play as long or hard as the other kids, so I spent my time reading and playing inside and . . . well, just imagining what I could do. I related to Calvin and Hobbes because it seemed to be just like my childhood in a lot of ways.
My kids, all three of them, sat at the table reading those books and they each saw something different. I began to realize…my son, in a lot of ways, is Calvin. He lives in his head. He’s too smart for his own good sometimes. (Okay, all four of them are) This wasn’t a comic it was art, philosophy, sarcasm and intelligence all wrapped into one. My kids sat for the entire weekend and read every single book.
It’s not often that the three of them sit quietly without video games, no television, no arguments and get along without a single angry word. This weekend it happened.
I found myself with a book in front of me, much like my 15-year-old self did in 1985 when the strip came out, and reading the books. In a lot of ways they’re funnier now than they were when I was a kid.
I understand, I’m an adult, yes a bit geeky sometimes, but an adult. Should I let my kids read a comic strip? Well…yes! When you get philosophy, wisdom, and phrases like “sometimes I think the surest sign there’s intelligent life elsewhere in the universe is the fact that they haven’t visited here…” I can’t help but think it’s far more intelligent than an episode of Spongebob.
And they’re together, sharing the strips, laughing . . . and I realize, we could all benefit by being just a little bit more like Calvin.
There really isn’t enough time to do all the nothing you want. . . and yes. . . sometimes scientific progress does go “boink!”