Christmas time is here, as the song says.
It’s not hard to feel what Charlie Brown feels at the start of “A Charlie Brown Christmas”: the disconnect between the quiet promise of peace and the relentless hardsell and forced jollity that the season has attracted. The plot of the show, if you can call it a plot, is just a string of tableaux that highlight that contrast. In the end, his choice of the little tree that needs love (“Do they still make those?” wonders Linus), and Linus’s recitation of the Gospel of Luke, provide Charlie Brown with the solace he needs.
This Christmas season (or holiday season, if you prefer) I wish all of you the solace you need. From time to time I have addressed this quest for inner peace in the Fisher strip; sometimes as a matter of religion, sometimes as a matter of meditative practice.
The single biggest influence on my desire to be a strip cartoonist was Charles Schulz. The fact that he wrote and drew everything himself gave “Peanuts” an integrity that was rare and powerful — especially because the subject of the strip was often the pain and humiliation that everyone’s familiar with. His ability to turn that pain into art — into humor — made his strip the most popular in the world in its time. And his willingness to include religious faith in the mix was an example for me too. I haven’t done it to the same extent, but I have factored it in as a part of life, as a part of the inquiry that any curious mind would engage in.
Not everyone wants to read about faith and belief in a comic strip, and I get that. I’m also not interested in persuading anyone of my beliefs. In fact, I would say that faith and belief are very different: Faith (whether in God or the Universe or Reason) is the ground you stand on; your beliefs are the way you interpret that faith to yourself and are therefore susceptible to change. So, doubt, as applied to belief, is a useful corrective impulse — whereas doubt, as applied to faith, is felt as an existential crisis.
Thus endeth today’s lesson.