Incredibly Luckey

Childhood was a time of innocence and optimism for me, a time when anything was possible and nothing got me down. I might have split my lip open playing in the woods, but within a week I was running around and climbing trees like nothing happened. I was the oldest among my neighborhood friends, and the leader by default. Being the leader not only meant inventing new and fun games to entertain ourselves, but sharing inspirational (naive?) world views that I myself believed. I actually once told the girl next door that “anybody could do anything!” Though two-and-a-half years younger than I, she'd already developed a cynicism that I wouldn't possess until years of being beaten down in school for opening my mouth. “No they CAN'T!” she insisted. “People can't FLY!” said a five-year-old confident in the evidence that proved her argument. I pointed out pilots and said that people who worked hard and studied planes could learn to fly them. I maintained that anyone was capable of anything, so long as they wanted it bad enough and worked hard at it.

Going to school and being around people my own age began to chip away at my optimism and confidence. Being bullied both physically and verbally taught me to keep my mouth shut, my thoughts and ideas to myself. My neighborhood friends got older, became interested in sports. Suddenly they were the leaders, and they were deciding what we would play. There would be games of football and basketball and baseball, but no make-believe, and no more made-up sports like tag on bikes with a frisbee. As I lost their respect, so too did I lose some self-esteem. Little by little, without realizing it, I became jaded. I listened to music that was considered cool by the popular kids, and not the more upbeat and happy tunes I used to sing with abandon on the playground while running around pretending to be Hannibal Smith. I buried the person I was deep within a shell of the person I would become, there to languish in darkness only to see the light around those I trusted, or when I was under the influence of alcohol.

Metaphorically, I'm something of a Mysterious Cloaked Figure in real life. One of the reasons I think I've always clicked with my friend Rey is the fact that I see in him an extroverted version of myself. People perceive me as someone who rarely speaks and takes things very seriously. Rey will break in to song at any time without warning, and it's not uncommon to hear Christmas carols from him in March. He's comfortable talking to anyone and speaking his mind, and should anyone challenge him or his interests, his ego drives him to display who he is with more pride. Make fun of him for liking Star Wars®, and it's likely to result in him wearing an ACTUAL cloak and walking around the office as a Sith lord. He doesn't care about being a geek or what people think. It hasn't stopped him from having a career, or finding a wife, or starting a family. If anything, such confidence has helped him. For every offbeat joke or action I might THINK of, he's actually SAYING and DOING.

Earlier this week I briefly mused about life's ups and downs, be they internal or external. Just as a person may go for months feeling healthy and then catch a cold for a week or so, only to get over it and have the cycle begin anew, so it is with our emotional states and the state of our affairs. Despite the state of my affairs of late, I've been inexplicably up this past week, for the most part. I suspect as the days get longer and the weather gets longer, I have a touch of Spring fever. If that were not enough to cheer me up, I also picked up The Incredibles on DVD the other day, and I've been watching it ever since. It has tons of great special features and Easter eggs, and while I have a lot to say about the feature and things relating to it, tonight I have something else on my mind.

The DVD included a short animated piece entitled Boundin'. It's the tale of a happy dancing sheep who becomes forlorn and quiet after being shorn, withdrawing and feeling sorry for himself as his friends laugh at his nakedness. Boundin' originally aired in theaters before the Incredibles, and possessed an innocence and world view I'd forgotten, reflecting such magical childhood loves as Dr. Seuss. The cartoon was conceived, written, and voiced by Bud Luckey, who reminisced about children's cartoons he worked on back in the ‘70s. He's almost choked up as he points out how he taught kids numbers on Sesame Street, and now those kids are grown up and teaching him how numbers and computers can animate.

Luckey plucks away at a ukulele as well in the short, and as the cartoon progresses the downtrodden sheep meets up with a mythical jackalope that has some sage advice for our shorn hero. I know it was just a children's cartoon, but something in it really spoke to me and left me inspired. The cartoons of our childhood had a way of simplifying everything, and that's something that gets lost when we grow up. Life is complicated. Bills. Taxes. School. Grades. Classes. Forms. Paperwork. I.D. cards. Phone numbers. Credit card numbers. There's an endless amount of “important” information that can bury the things we learned when we were younger. Maybe those things resurface when we become parents, and maybe if we're lucky enough we get a glimpse of what's been inside all along. I suspect the following words will stay with me for the rest of my life, and hopefully someday I'll have children of my own to share them with:

Now, sometimes you're up,
and sometimes you're down.
When you find that you're down,
well just look around:
You still got a body,
good legs and fine feet;
get your head in the right place
and hey, you're complete.


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