It’s Christmas and while everyone and their dog is having fun ice skating, Charlie Brown is glum. The always self-conscious little bald kid is depressed. This comes as no great surprise to the many millions that watch the perennial favorite each year.
So what is he depressed about this time?
“I like getting presents,” he tells Linus, “and sending Christmas cards and decorating trees and all that, but I’m still not happy. I just don’t understand Christmas, I guess.”
Thus begins his quest to find understanding.
“Are you afraid of responsibility?” Lucy asks him. “If you are, then you have hypengyophobia.
“I don’t think that’s quite it,” he answers.
“Are you afraid of staircases?” she continues, in love with the sound of her own intelligence. “If you are, then you have climacaphobia. Maybe you have thalassophobia. This is fear of the ocean, or gephyrobia, which is the fear of crossing bridges. Or maybe you have pantophobia. Do you think you have pantophobia?”
“What’s pantophobia?” he asks.
“The fear of everything.”
From an ethical standpoint, Charlie Brown’s search reminds me of Socrates’ expression, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” What Charlie Brown, and more than a few of us, are really looking for is meaning. At one time or another, all of us seek meaning in our lives. Some try to find that meaning in work; others look for it in religion or family; still others give time and resources to charitable causes.
Charlie Brown is looking for that meaning. In his yearly mission, he’s wondering who he is and how he fits into a world of friends, family, even his dog. He cares about others, but wonders if others really care about him. He questions the method and madness of a Christmas season that always appears front-loaded with merchandising, lights, decoration, singing, dancing, gift-giving and sometimes, little else. He wonders what the “else” is.
“True worth is in being, not seeming,” the poet Alice Cary wrote.
“In doing, each day that goes by,
Some little good – not in dreaming
Of great things to do by and by.
For whatever men say in their blindness,
And spite of the fancies of youth,
There’s nothing so kingly as kindness,
And nothing so royal as truth.
“We cannot make bargains for blisses,
Nor catch them like fishes in nets;
And sometimes the thing our life misses
Helps more than the thing which it gets.
For good lieth not in pursuing,
Nor gaining of great nor of small,
But just in the doing, and doing
As we would be done by, is all.”
It’s not a perfect world out there. Deceit, fraud, corruption, abuse have always been part of humanity and always will be a part of the world as long as man lives. But most of us strive to make it a better world for ourselves, our friends as well as our family.
In the final scene of his search, our hero stands in front of the scrawny little tree he bought for the Christmas play, only now – with the help of his friends and dog – it’s been transformed into a symbol of hope and faith: faith in the loyalty of friends and family, and hope for a better world tomorrow.
MERRY CHRISTMAS CHARLIE BROWN!