Zoey’s Inheritance

Zoey, on this occasion which celebrates your moving towards adulthood, I’d like to tell you about a peculiar family inheritance that is yours if you choose to claim it. I know the word inheritance evokes visions of heirlooms, cash, securities and/or property. However, the inheritance I want to tell you about has nothing to do with material wealth. Rather, it’s an inheritance that might help you figure out what would be the best adult version of yourself that you can shape. The inheritance I have in mind started with Mema during her college years. During a trip home from college, Mema gave me a gift. The gift was a little book written and illustrated by Charles Schulz called Happiness is a Warm Puppy. In this book each Peanuts character offered his or her definition of happiness. Charles Schulz’s drawings delighted me because as I studied the book, I imagined that I was part of the Peanuts world he created and wondered which of his characters would be my best friend. Moreover, Schulz’s prose provided me with my first opportunity to play with a big question. After hunkering down with Schulz’s words and drawings, I began to ask how I would describe happiness for myself. Owing to the fun I had reading and looking at the book, I felt Charles Schulz’s Peanuts characters would be a source of happiness for me from then on, and over the years, that childhood intuition has been proven correct.

Mema started the peanuts inheritance, passed it on to me, but it didn’t stop there. When Eema was born, I gave her a Snoopy stuffed animal that subsequently went with her to camp and to college with several side trips to the doll hospital for nose and other repairs. By the time you were born, I gave your Mom and Eema a cookie jar shaped like Snoopy’s doghouse, and just a few weeks ago, I gave your family, the Labbs , and the Livezey's a copy of the Peanuts Papers. The Peanuts Papers is published by The Library of America, which describes itself as “a nonprofit organization which publishes, preserves, and celebrates America’s greatest writing.” With the publication of the Peanuts Papers, Charles Schulz takes his place alongside Mark Twain, Herman Melville, and Edith Wharton. In effect, he and Peanuts have been officially designated a national inheritance always available to be passed onto future generations of Americans. Zoey, isn’t that as it should be? What good is an inheritance if a person can’t share its riches with others? Interestingly, your inheritance has come full circle growing more inclusive over time – it started with a book, Happiness is a Warm Puppy, which Mema shared with me. During her college years, Mema’s nickname was Peanut. Now, the most recent addition to your inheritance is another book, The Peanuts Papers which will ensure that your inheritance may be shared with persons yet not born.

Well, so much for the history of Peanuts in your family, but what do these memories have to do with the present moment which finds you poised at the threshold of adulthood? I would simply suggest that, your Peanuts inheritance might help you grapple with and shape the answers to the following complex questions that are part of the threshold you’re preparing to cross. Those questions are: What kind of person do you want to become? What qualities of heart, mind, and spirit do you want to aspire towards and deploy in the world? In my opinion, your Peanuts inheritance provides characters that might help you live the answers to these questions.

Perhaps, the Peanuts characters can help you begin to answer these questions because each of Schultz’s characters demonstrates a quality that when combined could create an exemplary adult.

Let’s start with my favorite character, Pig Pen. The quality I associate with him is self-possession. Self-possession is the ability to stay calm, confident, and composed particularly when one is in a stressful or embarrassing situation. Pig Pen undergoes multiple stressful situations during a day owing to a strange disability. -- wherever he goes dust and dirt are sure to follow. Owing to his self-generated dirt, Frieda and Violet shun him, but Pig Pen remains self-possessed. Pig Pen will not allow his sense of self to be diminished by these girls. Rather, he seeks out those characters who will accept him dirt and all and participates in a variety of activities with them. One of the characters who accepts Pig Pen just as he is is Peppermint Patty.

Peppermint Patty suggests a girl with spunk. Whether she’s preparing for an ice-skating competition, with Snoopy as her coach, working out, or flirting with Charlie Brown, Patty gives it her all.

In my opinion, Charlie Brown is the most complex Peanuts character. Viewing him from the outside, he’s a loser – his baseball team never enjoys a winning season, but nevertheless he continues to manage it even though the team relentlessly criticizes him and each other. he’s also equally committed to perfecting his pitching arm, and to get his kite in the air and away from the kite eating tree. Viewing Charlie Brown from the inside, however, gives a person a different perspective on him. Instead of writing him off as a loser, one begins to perceive Charlie Brown as steadfast, loyal, determined, compassionate, and caring. Although he usually values calm, quiet, and prudence, occasionally Charlie Brown will throw caution to the wind, and risk failing for the chance to become a hero. Whenever this urge overtakes him, Charlie Brown consults Linus -- his friend and confident -- to help him decide whether to play it safe or to go for the glory he desires.

Unlike the other characters, Linus takes the time and energy to know Charlie Brown not merely by his outside accomplishments and failures. Instead, Linus studies and recognizes the inner qualities that Charlie Brown deploys because the quality that Linus exemplifies is the patience to think deeply, and to reserve judgment until he feels he’s explored a question from multiple perspectives. Linus has probably practiced this kind of patient and deep thinking about a question or difficulty as a way of grappling with the difficulties in his own life like coping with his older sister Lucy’s bullying and berating, those terrifying minutes when he is separated from his security blanket because it needs to be washed, and the yearly Halloween disappointment he endures waiting for the ever elusive Great Pumpkin to appear. His patience and deep thinking afford Linus the opportunity to gain insight into himself -- what we call self-knowledge. Unlike Lucy, Linus tries to gain self- knowledge which enables him to readily admit what he doesn’t know, mistakes he’s made, avoid hurting another person’s feelings, and willingly apologize if he inadvertently does. Whereas, Lucy values success, power, and control above all else. Linus values those virtues of the intellect and the heart – reflection and kindness, as well as, fairness and sincerity.

Having mentioned Lucy, it’s just as important to know how you don’t want to conduct yourself as an adult as it is to know how you do. From the minute I first encountered Lucy in Schulz’s cartoon strip, I decided that she represented the type of kid I never wanted to meet and an adult I didn’t want to become because she’s a combination of a loud, know-it-all, belittling, and bossy fussbudget and bully.

Schroeder feels the same way about her. While sitting hunched over his toy piano, with a bust of Beethoven on it, and Lucy draped over the edge prattling on about what’s wrong with everybody else including Beethoven. Schroeder remains detached. By staying detached whenever Lucy does her best to distract and annoy him, Schroeder maintains his focus on what’s important to him – his musical aspirations. Schroeder feels that Beethoven is a kindred spirit owing to their shared love of classical music, moreover, Beethoven’s bust on his piano symbolizes and affirms Schroeder’s struggle to keep his creative and artistic life moving forward amidst life’s myriad distractions and obstacles.

Unlike Schroeder, who settles for his hero’s sheet music and bust. Snoopy’s ebullience, love of adventure, and imagination enables him to become the hero of many of his own stories like the one about him engaging in a dog fight with the Red Baron. Snoopy’s qualities also make life more exhilarating, funny, spontaneous, creative, and passionate for the other characters. Whatever adventure entices Snoopy, he steadfastly values his doghouse, supper dish, dancing, Charlie Brown’s heroic side, and Woodstock’s friendship.

Friendship is a significant theme for Charles Schulz. He illuminates its importance in Peanuts by depicting the characters collaborating with each other as a means of making sense of their experiences. In the strip, there are numerous instances when Linus’s and Snoopy’s friendship with Charlie Brown helps him avoid thinking of himself as primarily a loser and giving into self-pity and despair. In fact, by reading about the ways Snoopy, Linus, and Charlie Brown treated each other, I learned some of the essential elements of building and maintaining strong friendships -- listening, sharing, laughing, dreaming, adapting, and creating.

Another remarkable Peanuts friendship is the one between Snoopy and Woodstock. These two have enjoyed a diverse and pluralistic friendship long before those terms became buzzwords and embracing the other – an overused platitude. Although Snoopy physically towers over and outweighs Woodstock, the two of them find ways to overcome these superficial differences and enjoy each other’s company. Zoey, did you know, Uncle Evan and Aunt Jody’s nicknames are Woodstock? I don’t know why Uncle Evan got that nick name, but when Aunt Jody was a baby she had yellow hair and Mema would put it in barrettes that made little clumps of hair that stood up on her head like Woodstock’s feathers stand up on his head.

These days, I imagine I’m Woodstock because I admire his fearlessness in the face of overwhelming circumstances. Woodstock is tiny and can be easily battered by wind and rain. Moreover, if the wind and rain don’t personally hurt him, they usually ruin his best nest building efforts. Nevertheless, Woodstock, with Snoopy at his side, continues to prevail and lead an adventurous, and fulfilling life.

Taking a scrupulous look at the Peanuts characters, we discover that adults are largely absent from their world. Charles Schulz presented a refreshing view of adulthood in Peanuts by not portray them as the fount of knowledge or the purveyors of truth. Recognizing that, Schulz has the Peanuts characters turn to each other for the answers to their lived questions. They rely on each other to make sense out of their circumstances. No adult instructs any of the characters how to go about living their lives or how to become the adult each aspires to become. In creating Peanuts, Schulz suggests that the answers to those questions emerges from inside a person as one goes about living, regardless whether that person is a child or an adult. Possibly, that explains why there are no adult characters in Peanuts and when they rarely appear, adults are represented by an inaudible, disembodied voice that sounds like blah-blah-blah. In Peanuts Charles Schulz created characters that are self-reliant, complex, and collaborate in forming themselves.

Perhaps, it’s this unique perception of childhood that has enabled Peanuts to remain popular for seventy years. Peanuts’ longevity as a beloved comic strip begs other questions: What makes childhood, that initial layer of a human being’s life special and how does it affect the layers that follow? Let's explore these are two questions.

As children, humans have some special capacities. A child finds it easier to think about the world with love than an adult does. The name we give to that capacity is innocence. That capacity connects what you know with what you feel, thereby enchanting the world. That’s why a child might fall in love with a rock. For her, the rock is not just a thing outside of herself, but a connection, a clue to the larger world. Or a child’s enchanted world might take the form of imaginary friends who stay for supper. No one else can see them, but the child takes great pains to make sure these friends are comfortable in her home. Along with thinking about the world with love, childhood’s special gifts also includes taking delight in commonplace events, playing, imagining how things could be some other way, and whimsey. Zoey, the good news is just because a person grows older doesn’t mean she has to lose them.

In fact, transitions in human life like the one from childhood to adulthood don’t work like a theater curtain which is raised or lowered making it possible for the old scenery to be changed to prepare for the next act, and new sets brought in and put in place. Instead, human transitions have more in common with an archeological dig in that earlier incarnations of each of us forms a layer that the more recent layers rest on. Although our childhood gifts are not lost to us, in the process of growing older most humans cannot recollect ever having those gifts. That’s why we need guides to help us recollect our way back home. During the past seve years, I have been taking that journey in order to recover from the stroke that upended my life. The Peanuts crew and their human avatars acted as my guides and did more to help me heal than the doctors, medicines, hospitals, and therapies I endured. My being here to join you in marking this important day in your life proves that we carry childhood’s gifts with us throughout our lives and they are fundamentally life affirming. Zoey, as you light out for the territory of adulthood don’t worry, your childhood gifts will be safely lodged inside you ready to guide you towards and through the future.

Zoey, having spent a good deal of time discussing childhood, I don’t want to leave you with the impression that there’s nothing to look forward to as an adult. To make sure that’s not the case, let’s explore what adulthood has going for it. In one word, it’s called autonomy. Autonomy enables a person to decide what she wants to do, how she wants to do it, and who she wants to become. Sound good? For starters, as an adult you gain the resources, strength, and authority to deepen and expand your range of experience. And you begin to explore different ways to express the meaning significant experiences have for you. In fact, discovering the meaning of your own experience and then discovering how to communicate that meaning to others is what is called a vocation. – a vocation is what an adult chooses to do in the world because it fulfills her head, heart, and spirit. It is the task that melds her reason and passion together and she and the world are better for her embracing her task. Zoey, as we celebrate this rite of passage with you, here’s to you and your discovering your vocation.

Or as that other Max, the King of the Wild Things declared, “let the wild rumpus start.”

Aunt Max

https://www.googl e.com/search?q=Peanuts+Comic+strip&tbm=isch&source=univ&client=firef ox-b-1-d&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiAzKO Zoey’s inheritance , actual Peanuts comic Strip.

https://www.etsy.co m/listing/759328149/happiness-is-a-warm-puppy-charles-schulz?gpla=1&gao=1&am p;&utm_source=google&utm_m Image Happiness is a Warm Puppy book

https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/vintage-peanuts-snoopy-18-plush- 1808425450 Image of Amy’s Snoopy.

https://www.go ogle.com/search?q=snoopy+dog+house+cookie+jar&client=firefox-b-1-d&tbm=i sch&source=iu&ictx=1&fir=i1lF_Cr Image Snoopy doghouse cookie jar.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/25/books/review-p eanuts-papers-charlie-brown-snoopy-andrew-blauner.html The Peanuts Papers

https://www.youtube.com/watch ?v=JLJQXiIlj8w Pig Pen Profile

https://www.youtube.com/watch ?v=IZBkQjqkBjE Pig Pen Hoedown dance with Peppermint Patty

https://www.youtube.com/watch ?v=FsLyPZg1sKw Peppermint Patty skates, Snoopy is coach , first example of inaudible adult voice.

https://www.youtube.com/watch ?v=YfDitdZnHX8 Snoopy makes Peppermint Patty a skating costume and wig.

https://www.youtube.com/watch ?v=Sd81CcWzrZ4 Peppermint Patty, Charlie Brown, there’s no time for love.

https://www.youtube.com/watch ?v=OEL-gz03ta0 Peppermint Patty gets in shape

ww.youtube.com/watch?v=9vBsE3fxvLs First pitch of the season, plus a look at the team.

https://www.youtube.com/watch ?v=ruO6J9lp5Q8 The team plants a tree on Charlie Browns pitcher’s mound

https://www.youtube.com/watch ?v=caYrycQN3jA Charlie Brown with Linus’s help escorts the little red headed girl.

https://www.youtube.com/watch ?v=rIIgKJyMKBQ Charlie Brown and the Kite eating Tree with Lucy as shrink

https://www.youtube.com/watch ?v=raGk0zJa4_E Linus as Lucy’s science project

https://www.youtube.com/watch ?v=xiSIQzwIPzQ Linus and Sally waiting for the Great Pumpkin

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/13/opinion/sunday/peanuts-franklin- charlie-brown.html Linus greets Franklin

https://www.youtube.com/watch ?v=l3MGSyYsRkg Lucy criticizes Snoopy’s writing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch ?v=TkGLRhHipUk Lucy finds out she’s a crabby person.

https://www.youtube.com/watch ?v=rIIgKJyMKBQ Schroeder and Lucy talk about saucepans.

https://www.youtube.com/watch ?v=pTTDHHkQSFY Snoopy versus the Red Baron

https://www.youtube.com/watch ?v=WZ9W0nIonnM Snoopy’s back stirring up trouble

https://www.youtube.com/watch ?v=UbRXsV1XEq0 Snoopy dances as Flashbeagle

https://www.youtube.com/watch ?v=qhWpFIeg-Mo Surfing Snoopy

https://www.youtube.com/watch ?v=LId7nduXFdE Snoopy’s and Woodstock’s friendship

https://www.youtube.com/watch ?v=Aw7tzMBdLq4 Snoopy gives Woodstock a helicopter ride.

https://www.youtube.com/watch ?v=OVO7AYLGmBU Woodstock gets rained on

https://www.youtube.com/watch ?v=JJxHRnPxmBI Sally makes Linus a Valentine, adult disembodied voice

https://www.google.com/search?q=let+the+wild+rumpus+ begin+Max+king+of+the+wild+things&client=firefox-b-1-d&tbm=isch&sour ce=iu&ictx=1&fir=EzRliLrHNGb5HM%253A%252CNFbIxzFsDVLBrM%252C_&vet=1& amp;usg=AI4_-kRRZ3K-acfw6ZSoRR2QzcB8IjpTLQ&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjYw-iloubnAhU GWN8KHZKADrUQ9QEwEnoECAYQBw#imgrc=EzRliLrHNGb5HM: let the wild rumpus begin