Wurld peese

What provokes your strongest reaction, dear reader, in today’s TGW title: the spelling or the idea? Basically, I wanted to avoid the pat reaction that some might have after reading such utopian words—world peace! (spelled correctly)—at the top of the page today.Well, what does happen to you when you encounter these words (spelled correctly)—on a placard or a bumper sticker or painted on the outside of the organic grocery store? If you’re like me, you turn it into a question: World peace? Hmph. I cringe a bit inside, yet I also hold the idea close to my chest like a kitten or a baby. I think that such promotion is optimistic, which is forgivable, yet so very naïve, which is less. Isn’t world peace only possible as an idea?

Still. I find myself wishing for it: peace. Or wishing for a place more peaceful, especially in terms of ending “armed conflict.” My feelings of hope are somewhat unsophisticated, idealistic, perhaps irrational—yet “peace” is something I viscerally long for when I hear the updated Iraq or Darfur or Palestinian death count, or when there’s another gang shooting down the street. I will admit it: I am, undoubtedly, one of those (naïve?) optimists—not the kind who would print “world peace” on my notebook in neon rainbow colors, but the kind who meditates regularly on what a more peaceful, less violence-filled world might feel like.

I credit my predilection toward hope, toward “peace as possible,” to the Muppets. I simply can’t recall any other developmental experiences I might have had as a child that would have equally or additionally led me to believe that “peace among men” can occur—in fact, I can only remember unfortunate childhood incidents that would have negated that charming Muppet-ish happiness and loving acceptance that flowers in some of us gen-xers: the parents’ divorce, the subsequent custody battles. I was the archetypal latch-key kid. This was the late 1970s: a time when dead beat dads were earning the designation, when “alimony” and “child support” were the common legalese among fourth graders. Plus, my parents were not anywhere close to identifying with the categories of hippie or liberal—instead my family is a California version of heartland-blue-collar military stock. By any stretch of the imagination, I might have grown up to become one of the following: a cynic, a drug addict, or an over-achieving Republican.

Instead, I became hopelessly hopeful.

When I dig down to see where such idealism springs, I have to credit the Muppets. I see flashes of Grover teaching me about friendship, or the Swedish Chef making scrambled eggs, or Kermit’s melancholy songs, or Animal pounding crazily, happily on his drum kit until it fell over. The Muppets gave so many of us a place to rest our weary little child psyches, a place where silliness became profound, where lessons were learned gently.

Where else would you encounter a big blue ugly monster—accepted as part of the family right along with the chickens, the lab scientist, and the old men in the balcony? No divorces, no armed conflict—ever. The Muppet-styled shows were places where you could spell wurld peese and get away with it.

So, the problem with such childlike optimism—as an adult—is this: although I can imagine a peaceful existence, can picture daily interactions where “armed conflict” has become a history we have actually learned from, I’m not sure we really want it. Too boring. Too blank. Too eerie, like Lois Lowry’s The Giver. It’s a world potentially devoid of the ways in which we grow from encountering discomfort and suffering. Such a place is simply too strange. So why do I imagine it? Why do I sing John Lennon’s tune? Is it the Muppet within? If a majority of people concentrate on a peaceful world often enough, will it come to be?

I wonder if the cynicism toward the actuality of peace roots itself in our own inner contradictions, if the conflicts I see or read about in the daily news, large and small, are outward reflections of everyone’s individual internal clashes. Here’s one of mine: world peace is kind of scary. Another: we absolutely want innocent people to stop dying, but seem to project at least a little bit of disdain toward those hearts-on-their-sleeves peace-loving liberals. Here’s another: the Muppets are silly yet the Muppets are profound.

My friends: I’m a little frightened of the unknown, but my heart is on my sleeve and I blame the Muppets: wurld peese.


25 responses to “Wurld peese”

  1. it fits right in with your argument that the pilot for the muppet show was an ABC family special called “the end of sex and violence on television.” of course, there were a lot of dynamite plungers and explosions involved in the muppet show, but the basic point sticks. note that in the picture above everyone’s smiling except the TV news reporter.

    i’ve been working on a muppet rock opera for some time, based on the notion that about half of indie rock today derives from muppet influences. just take one look at devendra banhart. my hero in this piece is gonzo. i’m still working out plot details. wanna help?

    i also think we should pick out which muppets we would be: find your muppet doppelganger. farrell would be animal, of course. i would be bunson honeydew, probably, but secretly i’d like to be kermit. who would you be, tremain? john w would be beaker?

  2. Tim Wager says:

    Wow, two days, two world views simultaneously radically different and radically similar. Dave’s post envisions wurld deestrukshun (“Your life ain’t nuthin! Human race, becoming a disgrace!”), Lisa’s pines for the peese that she knows is most likely an impossibility. I’d suggest that each post attempts to work its own kind of voodoo: Dave’s to ward off what it envisions, Lisa’s to bring it about. At the same time, each is both fascinated and terrified by its vision. Dave seems minorly hopeful that humanity could get what it so richly deserves; Lisa is kind of scared by global pacificism. Strange (but not that strange) that it’s easier to come up with the specifics of dystopias, while utopias are just too nebulous to try to detail (without devolving into puppy-dogs-and-butterflies-and-ice-cream-for-everyone).

    P.S. I have a sinking feeling that if I were a Muppet I would be Scooter.

  3. Dave says:

    I’ve always strongly identified with Kermit. I’d probably be some other Muppet, but I can’t envision being anyone but Kermit.

    As for world peace, I’m inclined to agree with whoever said (something to the effect of) our powers of destruction have become so great that we must learn to live together in peace if we want the species to survive. But I don’t think we’ll be able to learn to live together in peace.

  4. tremain would be janice?

  5. lisa t. says:

    i love janice! especially veternarian’s hospital with dr. bob. in general, i want a bigger part. really, there are not enough good female parts in the muppets.

  6. Can I be Miss Piggy? says:

    Cue David Bowie singing “Peace on Earth…can it be?” Christian religion claims that ultimately there will be peace on earth and everyone “good” will enjoy it. That is a well-known scenario. In fact its the only world peace scenario I’ve heard. I think that’s why a lot of people go for prescribed religions. The break with religion requires so much mental effort. You have to find your own answers for this kind of question or you have to do without answers and “be okay” with that.

    I like how this post links the conflict in the writer’s home to the conflict in the world at large. There’s something interesting in that whole idea. Thanks for a good read.

  7. Jen says:

    What an interesting post indeed – I have never really thought about the eeriness of true wurld peese until now.
    In the meantime, I believe that I am intensely attuned to Thee Muppet Within. Which explains alot (or so I like to think).

  8. lisa t. says:

    i most definitely think dave makes the cut as kermit. sorry, bryan. but now, with you as bunson honeydew, john will be your partner as beaker (with his permission of course).

    here’s some great youtube explaining why the muppets are so simply wonderful:

    nice lyrical drop of Time Zone, too, Tim. i love that song.

  9. wow, lisa! i had only heard that on the muppet LP and had always visualized it as rolph the dog singing. you’ve completely revised my muppet world.

    what if i were kermit and dave were robin the nephew? he’d get to sing “halfway up the stairs” and i’d still get to sing “it’s not easy being green.”

  10. lisa t. says:

    um. i’ll leave that up to dave. dave?

  11. farrell says:

    hey bryan, thanks for imagining my doppelganger as animal. quite flattering. he was always one of my favorite muppets. however, i tend to relate more to the two old men muppets who are the theatre critics sitting up in the balcony talking shit about everything going on down below. very periperal. and laughing themselves silly. they always made me laugh so much. even as a kid. they sort of suit me best i think.

  12. lane says:

    yeah you are one of those old stogy men, but you do like being thought of as Animal, alas you’re a dad.

    Bryan, you’re the sax player in the band. Maybe the band leader, something musical.

    Dave is Kermit.

    Me, Fozzy, I’m not pround of it, but there it is, the bear. Like the UC BEARS.

    Did I mention I’m LIVING in CALIFORNIA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  13. lisa t. says:

    wow! farrell! where ya been?

  14. nathan is dr. teeth.

    farrell, which old guy would you be? stadtler or waldorf?

  15. Tim Wager says:

    Lane, are you in the Bay Area? For the summer, I assume, yes? If you make it down to LA, be sure to let us know. It would be great to meet you.

    Bryan, your knowledge of the various Muppets is remarkable, matched only by Lisa’s.

  16. Dave says:

    Yeah, Farrell, those old guys in the balcony. I used to do a very good routine of those guys with a friend in college.

  17. Beth W says:

    Okay, I have some suggestions about what fictional creature my brother should be. (Just because John’s thin and tall doesn’t mean he talks with beeps!) First, Fozzie bear was his favorite so that gets a vote. Then he also had a thing for Bert (a muppet cousin). I always liked to call him Gumby though. But Beaker can be unexpectedly very funny just like John so that might be his true muppet self.

    Lisa’s writing about the influence of the Muppets reminded me of Mr Rogers and particularly my mom’s love for Mr Rogers. She often talks about the sabbatical year she spent at home when John and I were teeny tiny and she watched Mr Rogers every day. And every day he would tell her “you are perfect just the way you are.” What a great guy.

  18. Lane says:

    Sadly the Muppets do not offer enough roles for women. Janice or Piggy? That seems to be about it.

    Obviously I’ve thought WAY too much about this topic.

  19. Dave says:

    It’s a plush, child-friendly Madonna/Whore dichotomy.

  20. what about gonzo’s harem of chickens?

    and why do i suspect 18 is from adriana rather than lane?

  21. Adriana says:

    No, that really was Lane but it followed a conversation we had. I was going to volunteer myself as Gonzo since Lane described him as “small and neurotic” but alas, I don’t have a harem of chickens.

  22. wow — california is doing weird things to lane. i’ve never heard him get defensive on behalf of the ladies before.

    when i was a kid i thought piggy was kind of awesome. i even had a t-shirt with her on it. but as an adult i find her kind of pathetic. poor little porker. kermit’s always trying to ditch her.

  23. Dave says:

    Lane was a feminist before it was cool.

  24. lane says:

    thanks dave

  25. farrell says:

    Bryan asked: would you be “stadtler or waldorf?” holy shit. that’s some hard core muppet trivia knowledge, dear brother. i never knew they actually had names (but of course they did!). anyway, i can’t remember their personality differences with enough detail to specifically align my doppelganger with one over the other. Maybe Dave can help me with that, based on his muppet routine and all. And Tremain, what’s up with “farrell, where you been?” Dear Lisa, I am everywhere. Even when i haven’t posted for a number of months (which is soon to change) you must recognize that my presence is still constant. like a jedi knight, i am everywhere. sure, you don’t see my words, but you feel my thoughts, my smiling concurrence. I lurk just over your shoulder. every word you write assumes i am there to read it. feel this. know this. be at peace. i am always here. even when the nightlite is off.