It’s weird how you outgrow certain things that were important to you when you were young, and yet other things seem to only become more influential as the years go on. I started reading “Calvin and Hobbes” when I was 10, because Calvin is a sarcastic little shit who doesn’t take his parents seriously. I was the same way. He also prefers his imagination to girls. Now, I realize that hidden within the façade of mischief, Bill Watterson actually taught me some of the most important lessons of my life.
1. You shape your own reality.
There are no rules in Calvin’s world. This doesn’t just apply to Calvinball, either. His imagination is the only thing that limits the adventures he and Hobbes go on. While I don’t necessarily go around trying to save the world from Mom-Lady as Stupendous Man anymore, I do realize that a lot of the way my life plays out will depend on how I construct it. Not only that, but there are hundreds of ways that an individual event can be perceived, depending on my own decisions. Something objectively good or bad can happen to me at any given moment, but the reality that truly matters is how I choose to perceive and subsequently deal with it.
2. Learning is complicated.
Calvin’s an enigma. He hates school, but he’s fascinated with how things work, how people think, and the general state of affairs in the world. But in truth, he’s about as enigmatic as the rest of us in that regard. I find myself following the same track with the way I process information. If I’m “supposed” to learn it, my brain tightens up on me. I took a class in college called The American Novel, because I wanted to read every book on the list in the course catalog. Once the class came around, I only read three of the 12. It wasn’t because I didn’t have time–I read plenty of other books in the same timeframe. I just hated that I now “had” to read them. Guess what? After the semester was over, I eventually read all of them (I’d already bought them, after all).
The point that Bill Watterson was trying to get across, which I fully agree with, is that there is a difference between education and learning. Both are key to developing as a person, but being inquisitive about the world around you is just as important as memorizing dates in history.
3. You’re never going to totally understand girls.
I’d like to think I’ve picked up some tidbits of info about the opposite sex in my travels. As far as I can gather, they DO LIKE surprise pizza, pictures of puppies, and old people in love. They DO NOT LIKE the first thing they put on in the morning, men’s feet, and being told how to fix their own problems. They PRETEND TO NOT LIKE being tickled, having pranks pulled on them, and anal (so they can leverage it). But despite this, I’ve witnessed girls do idiotic things that make no logical sense whatsoever to me, or, conversely, happily surprise me by doing something. So I’m back to the original position I was in when “Calvin and Hobbes” was an integral part of my life. There are just going to be times that girls behave like they’re an entirely different species than I am. And that’s okay, because just like Susie’s view of Calvin from the opposite perspective, they find me childish, gross, and confusing all the time, too.
4. Our dads are fucking awesome.
This one is obviously HIGHLY dependent on your experiences growing up. I’m not suggesting that everyone’s dad is a good person. Hell, I’ve made enough friends in my life to know that dads, or the lack of them, can be shitty. But there are a lot of us out there who grew up with really great dads, and we took it for granted for a long time. It wasn’t until the tail end of college that I realized how much of an effort my dad put in when I was growing up to make sure that I had the things I needed, some of the things I wanted, and every bit of knowledge he thought would help me become a man. And he was hilarious. I never appreciated “dad humor” until now, which is ridiculous in hindsight, because “Calvin and Hobbes” is full of dad humor. His father is at times dryly funny, confused, angry, and genuinely supportive. And I see my own dad reflected in that.
5. The world is awesome.
The proliferation of information is both the best and worst thing that has happened in the modern and postmodern era of our society. Anything we want to know is available at the tips of our fingers for our eyeballs at all times. The downside is that the ugliness of the world is something we have to face more often. Tragedies around the world, which were once just blips in a newspaper, are now covered 24/7 by news stations and written about ad nauseum online. The world’s not getting worse–in fact, anthropologists believe overall violence is on a steady decline. We’re just seeing more of the bad.
So what’s the solution? Remember how great the world is. I’m really good at staying at my desk and spiraling down my Internet hole for hours, only to look up and realize that it’s a perfect day outside. I’m like my own mom now. I have to tell myself, “Knox, go play outside,” although I’ll usually toss in a few choice words my mother would never utter. Genocide, hatred, oppression, teen moms on TV? That stuff isn’t going anywhere. Be happy that you can go get into some trouble with your best friend and just forget about all the world’s problems for a while.
As for Calvin and Hobbes themselves, I like to think they continued to grow up together. Some dicks, like Andy, leave their best friends behind when they go to college and they end up having to fight asshole toys in a nursery and almost get incinerated. Not Calvin. He forged a college application for Hobbes and they ended up getting placed as roommates (totally by accident, too–they both went pot luck). From there, it was your pretty typical college story. Calvin still hated going to school and Hobbes always helped take his mind off it. Whether it was scheduling ragers during important tests, being the best wingman who ever existed, or becoming the school’s primary weed dealer, Hobbes had the college life on lockdown. Hell, he and Calvin tripped LSD on the reg as a more adult way of getting to shoot at dinosaurs out of an F-16. That’s how I picture it, anyway.