I always love to read to Peanuts in the comic strip. Snoopy, Linus, Schroeder, and the rest were great friends to me when I was growing up. And of course there was Charlie Brown, a character everyone loves and admires. Well, the readers do anyway. It seems he gets a lot of grief from his own friends.
It wasn’t until the past year that I realized how important that grief has always been to me. The best example is the recurring theme of kicking the football. Lucy, a character who has seemingly made it her life’s purpose to give others grief has found an easy target in Charlie Brown. He never seems to wise up to her tricks. She offers to hold a football for him to run and kick. Charlie Brown comes running with a Herculean effort hell-bent on kicking that ball half-way to the moon. Lucy pulls the ball away at the last minute and Charlie Brown finds himself flying through the air crying “AAAGGH!!!” and landing with a capital “WHUMP.”
This strip paints a very good portrait of how I view life. I think it is important to try to go for my dreams even when I know I am likely to fail. Charlie Brown isn’t the fool Lucy would have us take him for. He knows that she will pull the ball away and he will once more fall back to earth with bruises to more than his body. It’s absurd to think she will do otherwise. But that’s what makes the action important, and that’s the first part of the formula for living an authentic life. I pursue my dreams despite the absurdity.
I can flaunt this absurdity because even though I believe one-hundred percent that I will fail to realize my dreams, I also believe one-hundred percent that my dreams will come true. The math may be fuzzy, but it works for me. Simultaneous optimism and pessimism prevents me from being locked in either viewpoint and allows me to act without pretense, lying to myself, or relying on a deus ex machine .
The last ingredient is the one that ties it all together. Charlie Brown feels an intense moment of grief when he’s lying on the ground with his dream of kicking the football lying in shattered pieces all around him. Grief is important to him and to me because it makes the effort worth it. The possibility of happiness means nothing without the possibility of grief. Denying the importance of grief can lead me to have an overly optimistic view of life, thereby missing out on a large part of existence. So this is what I believe—I believe in pursuing my dreams despite the absurdity and the impending grief. I choose to kick the football.
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