Listen to Charlie Brown

Many sources tell us how we should have greeted the new year. It feels a bit like too much free advice. Perhaps it is just this year. Celebrities often feel compelled to tell us how to live “our best life”. I tend to think if you don’t have to shovel the driveway or feel bad when you throw out the rotting vegetables you promised yourself you would eat, then “your perception of real life is somewhat altered” (one of my favourite movie lines – my daughters will get it). My “best life” changes with the weather. Some days I eat cereal for supper and feel totally empowered. Other days, I create a culinary wonder or at least a wonder by my standards. Usually, I pay little heed to the advice that accompanies a changing of the calendar, but someone’s philosophy I read recently I have printed off and pinned to my bulletin board above my desk. Said philosophy belongs to the “Peanuts Gang”, though I’m pretty sure Snoopy and Charlie and the rest of the gang got their wisdom from Charles Schulz, even though we never see Schulz’s lips move.

I’ll summarize Charles Schulz’s philosophy though you may have seen the essay circulating in your social media. Most of us cannot remember who won what award, be it an Oscar for worst dressed or best picture or first place for protesting a Grammy win or who has the most money or whatever it is we like to measure to hold up as the standard of success. Those names fade from our memory, and we find ourselves turning to “google” if we need reminding. But Schulz and his cartoon pals are willing to bet each and every one of us remember teachers who profoundly “aided [our] journey”, remember friends who stayed close “through a difficult time”, can recall strangers who “taught us something worthwhile”. These real life award winners stick with us, while the others fade, the applause forgotten, the acceptance speeches irretrievable.

I am often beating the same drum in my writing and perhaps it borders on a habit, but it is what gets me out of bed with a bounce many mornings, that and the delicious rhythm of AC/DC’s Highway to Hell playing in my head. I’m not even sure of the lyrics, but it has been an anthem of not giving up for me. I also call on the wise words of my grandson Linden who said, not so long ago, that he was going outside to practise his brave. Practice does make perfect, so I too will go outside to practise.

Schulz’s career spanned fifty years and in his 18,000 comic strips, no adults said a word other than wah, wah, wah, because adults are too busy starting wars and neglecting their neighbours to be included in a comic strip of such stature. Schulz said his comic strip was “about nothing” but anyone who grew up reading Peanuts in her parent’s Saturday Winnipeg Tribune knows this is not true. He had a readership of 355 million, was syndicated in 75 countries, and was translated into 21 languages, according to BBC Culture in 2018. Schulz once argued against his work bearing the classification of art. He claimed that art is something that lives on after the creator has departed this earthly realm. He was certain once his pen was laid down and his comic strip no longer showing up newspapers and the like, that would be the end of his work and therefore, did not qualify as “art”. Schulz died in 2000 yet his Peanuts characters continue to charm and inform us. His work definitely meets all the required criteria to sit on the top shelf amongst the greats. Afterall, we must remember Charlie Brown’s sage advice – “I think I’ve discovered the secret of life,” Charlie said. “You just hang around until you get used to it.” Straightforward wisdom.

wendistewart@live.ca