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What I learned from Calvin and Hobbes
The Gospel according to Calvin and Hobbes
Dr Alex Tang
Calvin and Hobbes is a daily newspaper comic strips series drawn by Bill Watterson in 1985 about a 6 year old boy with a toy tiger named Hobbes. In this script we are introduced to Calvin’s world or reality where Hobbes is a real wise-cracking tiger. We are also immersed into the life of his long-suffering parents, his school and school friends. After Peanuts by Charles Schulz, Calvin and Hobbes is my favorite cartoon strip series. My enjoyment of the series (which stopped in 1995 when Watterson decided to stop drawing the strips) comes from identifying with the worldview of this little boy and his pet tiger.
First, Calvin and Hobbes enjoy life. Every day is a wonderful adventure to them with new possibilities and wonders. Whether exploring the woods near their house, overdosing on sugar while watching Saturday morning cartoons on television or playing in his room, there is always place for creativity and enjoyment. They are not worried about consequences. Life is to be seized and every ounce of enjoyment squeezed out of it.
Second, Calvin has a very developed imagination. Watterson highlights this in the comic strip when Calvin and Hobbes are drawn in simple outline, Calvin’s imaginary worlds are very detailed and colorful. The fact that Calvin is not aware that Hobbes is a toy tiger is a tribute to the strength of his imagination. Calvin escape into his imagination when he is face with unpleasant situations such a boring lessons in school, eating vegetables in mealtime, doing homework (who likes homework anyway), and in the school principal’s office. In his imagination, he becomes a spaceman, a flesh eating dinosaur or have a machine that ‘trans-mogrifies’ things.
Third, Calvin and Hobbes has a unique way of looking to everyday things. They have a wonderful sense of wonder than transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary. A cardboard box becomes a time machine or spaceship, a packed lunch becomes a horror inducing stuff to scare girls, or the many unique ways of building snowman by producing panoramas.
Finally, the friendship and loyalty of Calvin towards Hobbes is heartwarming. Though they bicker and fight (note: never fight with a tiger with claws), the scenes when Calvin lost Hobbes (Hobbes was later found) was heart rendering.
The Gospel according to Calvin and Hobbes is about enjoying life. Life is to be enjoyed with gusto, imagination, wonder and friends. Yes, Calvin has to live in a limited world of a 6 years old with its rules and boundaries set by his parents and school. That to him was never an obstacle but a challenge. I wonder whether this applies in our Christian life. The Gospel of Jesus Christ offers hope and life. Yet, when I look around, many of his followers live depressing, inhibited, mundane lives. Where is the joy, gusto and wonder? Reformed Pastor/Theologian John piper coined the word “Christian hedonist” in his 1986 book Desiring God. Usually we do not associate Christians with hedonists. Why, hedonists are supposed to have fun! Piper gave credit to Jonathan Edwards for the concept. He explains in God’s Passion for His Glory (1998),
"The great goal of all Edward's work was the glory of God. And the greatest thing I have ever learned from Edwards...is that God is glorified most not merely by being known, nor by merely being dutifully obeyed, but by being enjoyed in the knowing and the obeying".
The Christian life is enjoyable when we know God and obey him. God is glorified when we enjoy life with him. Since then, many Christians have objected to the word ‘Christian hedonism’. Dictionary.com defines hedonism as “the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the highest good”. If being with God is the highest good, and pleasure and happiness results from it, what is wrong with using the word? Hedonism is not a bad word if it is used to describe the joy of living our life in God. Is Christianity a dour religion with no enjoyment, gusto, wonder or relationships? Apparently some Christians seem to think so.
Me? I want to learn from Calvin and Hobbes! The last sentence in the last pane of the last comic strip scripted by Bill Watterson in 1995 summarizes it all. It read “…Let’s go exploring!”
11 March 2015
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