Reflections on a Schulzless Universe by Charlie Brown
I lost my faith about six years ago, in a weird kind of convergent way. I woke up one morning and there, already in my head, loomed this preformed, unignorable thought: There is no Schulz. Weird. And I can tell you, it rattled me. Because I'd believed in Schulz my whole life. Over 50 years. But, sudden or not, the doubt was real. Deep. So, to mull, I took a walk. Wound up wandering all the way to the front of the newspaper. That's when -- pow! -- I see it. This big headline proclaiming, "Charles Schulz Is Dead." It was too freaky to be a coincidence. More important, it was too freaky not to be true. In that moment, I knew Schulz didn't exist. At least to me.
Naturally, I brought up my conversion to Schulzless heathen with my shrink, Lucy. She sensed, correctly, that this was a big issue for me and suggested we step up our sessions. The work was hard, and we explored some pretty dark and disturbing places. One day, she laid this on me: "Clearly, you want to sleep with your mother and kill your father." Pause. Then: "You're an Oedipal wreck, Charlie Brown." I was bowled over. All this time, I'd thought she was a Jungian.
I suppose I'd found it reassuring. You know, the whole idea of Schulz. The idea that someone else was in charge. Some huge omniscient, omnipotent old man -- not a young girl or a Great Pumpkin or a living, benevolent pencil -- an old man, sitting out there in a mystical, unknown, unknowable "third dimension" plotting and planning my every move, creating the whole world from scratch every day. Good grief! I guess until my epiphany, Robert Novak was only the second most delusional guy on Planet Newsprint.
I've grown a lot in the past five years. I've had to. I mean, really, at its core, assuming the existence of a father figure as the master of my life was basically an excuse for me to remain a child. Well, no more. I'm a man -- my own man -- now. And come Monday, this man's going to go in for a long overdue prostate screening.
I won't kid you: I'm still adjusting to the new me. A lot of the time, I feel unmoored, disconnected, a little floaty. I go to work at the strip every day, turn up in the same 2,600 papers like always, but I have this recurring feeling that I've done it all before. That nothing's fresh. Like I'm endlessly repeating myself. Like the whole gang is. But I know that's impossible. Isn't it?
My horizons have broadened considerably since my Schulz-fearing days. I go out more. To observe, see how others live, hear what they think and believe. I've made friends, too, beyond the Peanuts gang. But there's no place I'm especially drawn to (pun intended). My expeditions have paid real dividends, too. It was I who let Peppermint Patty and Marcie know that Reverend Scott over in Doonesbury would officiate their wedding.
I've shared my change in perspective with Linus. Innocent that he is, though, he refuses to accept that Schulz doesn't exist. "He's in my heart, Charlie Brown," he says. I don't remind him that, given our head-to-body ratio, our rational brains are 50 times the size of our foolish hearts. Linus also claims to see the image of Schulz's face in the stain pattern on his unfurled blanket. Argh! What's next? Street corner sermonizing on the coming Rapture of Erasure?
How could I have been so blind for so long? Now I'll see my dog, Snoopy, sitting on top of his doghouse with his World War I flying ace outfit on, taking on the Red Baron, and I say to myself, If there's a Schulz, why is there war? Or I'll see Snoopy's brother Spike, and I'll think, If there's a Schulz, why does he allow poverty and bad moustaches? Or I'll see Franklin and I'll wonder, If there's a Schulz, why would he color in just this one poor kid?
These days, I understand that my humiliations in sports, in school, with the Little Red-Haired Girl aren't full of divine portent, that they deliver no profound-yet-cryptic message from Schulz on High. They're just desultory events in an uncaring world perpetrated by the soulless characters who comprise the foolhardy cartoon race. "Sigh?" Won't cover it. Try, "Fuck me."
I used to think happiness was a warm puppy. Now? I think happiness is so much warm cow flop. Sure, I want satisfaction and fulfillment, but mostly I'm just trying to get from panel to panel, you know? And should, eventually, my days in this strip wind down, I'm not looking for the promise of eternal life in a paradise of perpetual syndication. Not anymore. Today, I'll settle for being recycled.
CONTACT BOB WOODIWISS: bwoodiwiss(at)citybeat.com. His column appears here the last issue of each month. His book, Keys to Uncomfortable Living, a collection of humorous and satirical essays, is in bookstores now.