Life According to Calvin and Hobbes
Throughout my childhood, I was always too entertained to realize that I was learning.
By Aaron Lynch, Front Range Community College
I was first introduced to “Calvin and Hobbes” while on a family road trip.
My brother had bought a book collection of the comic strips at a truck stop, and the book was glued to his hands until we got to the hotel that night. I had never been into comics before, and honestly I didn’t really grasp “Calvin and Hobbes” at first. But anyone who’s ever driven across the Midwest knows just how desperate you can get for something to do.
I quickly grew to love following the adventures of six-year old Calvin and his stuffed tiger, so much so that I didn’t even realize the life lessons being imprinted upon me in the process. Here are seven of those things that have stuck with me into my adult life.
1. Be Weird
Somewhere in the public school years, most kids begin to avoid standing out at all costs. They just want to be another face in the crowd, to blend in and hide the parts of their personality that are less socially acceptable.
This is never the case for Calvin though. Always off in his own imagination, and often acting out his fantasies in reality, he never really has friends (other than Hobbes of course). But he also never has the slightest bit of shame about this.
Why? Because Calvin knows he has it right. In fact, he doesn’t really like the other kids at school because they don’t understand him. For Calvin, being himself and exactly himself is better than any friendship he could build with someone else. So embrace your weird qualities even if some people don’t like it. Your weirdness is the reason you’re unique.
2. Play Outside
Calvin and Hobbes can be found outdoors most days. They’re often either walking through the woods, playing outside games or riding a wagon or sled. Even snow doesn’t get Calvin down; on the contrary in fact, he loves to play in the snow, and sometimes it gets him out of school.
Playing outside can have many positive impacts. Whether you’re hiking, going on a ski trip or just walking your dog, outdoor activities are almost always good exercise. Plus, getting sun is good for your health. Even better for your health is losing the fear of getting dirty.
Take pride in your grass stains, your scrapes and your muddy shoes. The quality of your adventures can be measured on your clothes. It’s not going to kill you. Things like these give stories to tell, a sense of just how tough your body really is and they help make you an explorer.
3. Do It Your Way
The older I get, the more I realize that life does its own thing; it’s also not going to make sense to you sometimes. Lazy ingrates get promoted, someone cuts you off and you have to stop at a light and people don’t say thank you when you hold the door for them. It happens every single day. And when it’s happening to me, I try to remember Calvinball.
Calvinball is the favorite game of Calvin and his philosophical sidekick. It’s made up differently every time, with new rules, new ways of keeping score and new objectives. The only standing rule of Calvinball is that you can never play the same way twice.
Sometimes in life you just have to embrace the chaos and make the rules up as you go. Life doesn’t have to make sense; the good news is that neither do you.
4. Learn Outside the Classroom
Perhaps Calvin’s least favorite activity is going to school. He’s often seen sleeping at his desk or imagining his life as Spaceman Spiff (the intrepid galactic explorer). He even shows pride in actively tuning his teachers out. And why is this? Once again, Calvin has a good point.
I’m not saying that you should take to falling asleep and zoning out in class. But it’s important to remember that there are many things in life that can’t be learned from a professor. Positive attitudes, a strong work ethic and the will for self-improvement are all examples of characteristics only acquired in the real world. These qualities are just as valuable as your degree is, so take time to learn what’s outside of the classroom too.
5. Perception Means Everything
It’s difficult to say what Hobbes actually represents. What we do know for sure is that he plays a big role in Calvin’s state of being. When he’s not into something mischievous, Hobbes is usually giving simple yet pertinent advice to Calvin. And Hobbes is real through the eyes of Calvin, ultimately making him real on some level.
The way people interact with reality is based solely upon their perception of reality. Learning to see things from other points of view can be an invaluable skill when it comes to working with your peers. Even if you still disagree with them, many tense situations can be diffused if you can simply acknowledge where your opposition is coming from.
6. Take Risks
To be fair, this lesson is best taken in moderation.
Calvin has a knack for getting into trouble. Whether he’s ditching school, stealing cookies or chucking snowballs at Susie (his neighbor/classmate), he just goes for it and worries about the consequences later. And there’s elegance to his fearlessness.
Normally when it comes to questionable behavior, I’m more about taking calculated risks and weighing the cost to benefit ratio.
Having said that, some things in life can’t wait long enough for your risk analysis.
Kiss that girl/guy, book that flight, pitch that idea to your boss. If you find yourself in the perfect moment, don’t squander it deciding what to do. Act. If all else fails, it’s still better to ask for forgiveness than permission.
7. Have a Dance Party
The day-to-day trials of life will get you down every now and then. If thinking of Calvinball and embracing chaos isn’t cutting it for you today, do what I do and have a dance party.