Social Philosophy Through Calvin and Hobbes

Posted 10/20/2010 by Brandon Wainerdi in Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,
Right off the bat: I cannot, and will not, talk about underground rap labels or Downtown slam poetry bars or a sculpture exhibit in someone’s home. I have no business talking about these things. It's not that I have a problem with these pieces of art and performance and soul, I just experience a different type, as I newly walk around this state-university campus, attempting to retain some sense of uniqueness amid a system that’s just trying to assign me a number and push me further into educational obscurity.

My art is a little less…pronounced. I’m only a secret poet, scrawling my words into new notebooks on windy Sunday mornings, publishing daily thoughts on my own, barely-read blog. And I wouldn’t know much at all, I wouldn’t have much to store away in these spirals, if it were not for the books by my bed, neatly stacked alongside each other, whispering words of advice and criticism, as I type this sprawled on my narrow dorm bed.

            When I began to pack for my freshman year in college, a faraway two months ago, I easily spent the most time out of this process picking out books to take with me. I viewed them as a necessity to collegiate survival, at least more of a necessity than the “mandatory” supplies of clothes or food or bed sheets. Each hardcover volume was neatly shoved into the cardboard corners of foldable boxes, closed with the cheap masking tape that I found in our garage.

            And the book that has influenced me the most, the hardcover coffee-table volume that was proudly laid on top of the cardboard stack two months ago, on top of Gatsby and Flannery O’Connor and Billy Shakes' Hamlet, the one that is a Bible for my daily philosophizing and actions, laying on the desk next to me as I type every word in this article: The Indispensable Calvin and Hobbes.

            Yeah, I know.

            But, bear with me, Bill Watterson, the creator of the strip is a genius. He has crafted a character in Calvin that both undermines and defines the generation that’s now being sent through college, putting labels on the previously un-labelable social rulings and ideals, creating a world that is already in everyone's minds.

Calvin: “When I grow up, I'm not going to read the newspaper and I'm not going to follow complex issues and I'm not going to vote. That way I can complain when the government doesn't represent me. Then, when everything goes down the tubes, I can say the system doesn't work and justify my further lack of participation.”
Hobbes: “An ingeniously self-fulfilling plan.”
Calvin: “It's a lot more fun to blame things than to fix them.”

            In himself, Calvin represents all that you should not be, for the most part, save for an unquenchable desire for truth and a limitless imagination. As an aspiring writer, of sorts, these two principles are key to any successful story, article, or blog post. I used this quote from Mr. Calvin as one of the introductory quotes in the “About Me” section of my personal blog:

“People always make the mistake of thinking art is created for them. But really, art is a private language for sophisticates to congratulate themselves on their superiority to the rest of the world. As my artist's statement explains, my work is utterly incomprehensible and is therefore full of deep significance.”

            I unabashedly consider myself to be an immature person, still holding on to unopened action figures and childhood fads, refusing to conform to the social pretenses of a certain taste in movies, how to talk to girls, or what to wear on a daily bases. I managed to “get away” with this way of thinking in high school; my class was comprised of almost the same group forty boys for eight years, wearing starched-white polos and loafers. And, nearly every trip to the school’s small library was met with another Calvin and Hobbes pick-up, another boost to both the self-confidence factor and the imagination. Watterson is both hilarious and incredibly deep, dealing with Transgmorgrifier Machines and death in the same collection.

“The only skills I have the patience to learn are those that have no real application in life.”

And now college has presented a new challenge of reintroducing myself to a whole new set of people, who do not know that I go to comic conventions or that I’m terrible at sports, or that I write poetry. And, for a second, I’m scared. I’m scared about not being accepted for who I am, for not fitting in, for not making friends easily. But then Calvin, oh so joyfully, reminds me and our stuffed tiger friend in the last line of the last strip, as we sled down the hill of adulthood, the end impossible to see through the quick flurries in front of us:

                            “It's a magical world, Hobbes, ol' buddy...Let's go exploring!"
[And, hey, check out my personal blog, This is a shameless plug, I know, but, as Calvin once said, "What's the point of wearing your favorite rocket ship underwear if no one asks to see 'em?" This blog is my rocket ship underwear.]

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