The Plagued Parent

posts about surviving our children, the Baby Boomers who raised us, and everyone else with an opinion...

Mortality and Meaning

So this is heavy subject for a comic strip.

Much less a strip where the main characters are a 6 year old boy and his “imaginary” best friend who happens to be a tiger.

And, yet…

Bill Watterson, creator of the comic “Calvin and Hobbes” goes there. He goes there and beyond with respect to using this animated duo to confront a number of difficult subjects such as death and dying. In the process he reminds us that there is always more than one way to process the confounding paradoxes that life presents to us.

In this I find a certain Zen-like quality to the dilemmas Watterson offers to Calvin and Hobbes, and the ways in which they choose to unravel these mysteries.

Ultimately, whether we are 6 or 46 we struggle at the crossroads where the mystery of human action intersects with the mystery of all that is unknown to us. The foundation of human struggle can often be found, I think, in our resistance to what we are experiencing in the now.

To remove struggle is to deny our humanity. To struggle ceaselessly can destroy it. Again the paradox. Perhaps, the only way to deal with paradox is by deploying a radical concept — acceptance.

Easier said than done, I know.

Maybe that’s where a certain cartoon kid and cartoon tiger might come in handy.

Hopefully, both of them are right. Hopefully, all of this will make sense when we, when I,  grow up.



Part of the Blogging A to Z Challenge.

Updated: April 15, 2017 — 10:12 am


  1. It made sense to me the day i really understood that we’re here for lessons, that it’s all set up as a teaching experience and a learning experience. That’s how it worked for me.

    1. I’m going to try and think of it that way. On one level I believe that, but on another level the cynic in me leans towards the abyss…

      1. I’ve had a lot of evidence, though, so for me, it’s pretty conclusive.

  2. Life’s mysteries are perfect for cartoons—because inside we are all 10 year olds and need some guidance!!

    1. I think that is why this comic strip has such lasting power. And your right about us all being 10 yr. olds that need a guide.

  3. Just the other day, several friends and I were talking about losing our parents. And again today it came to mind…especially losing my dad…then I realized why, it was this week, 14 years ago, he found out he had lung cancer and most likely would die from it. He was 68. Two months later I went to see him again for the last time…Still miss him. Still talk to him. Still “sense” him here with me sometimes. And I’m so glad for that!
    I don’t believe our loved ones are lost when they die; they just aren’t in their bodies any more.

    1. He is always present so long as you have memory and it’s good to see how you cherish that.

  4. I agree that the human struggle is found in resistance to what we are experiencing now. Amazing how deep Calvin and Hobbes were. What a talent to impart wisdom through a comic strip.

    1. It is ridiculous how insightful this comic was. Truly a work of artistic genius that the embodiment of our resistance is 6 year old with a stuffed tiger.

  5. Such a thought inspiring article there. For me I believe that life is just a big bag of randomness, and we can choose to accept it for what it is and use what we’re given, or not. Continually fighting against the waves of change!

    That’s how it makes sense to me

    1. I love the idea of life being a “big bag of randomness”. That really does describe it doesn’t it? I’m just beginning to see that those waves will constantly push us to the bottom of the ocean but we can decide whether or not to lie there choking on sand and drowning or stand up and withstand. Thanks Raymond.

  6. I don’t know that I believe in fate necessarily – at least not in the typical sense – but I do believe in the collective unconscious and in that line of thinking, I envision rubber bands binding us all. Some have been stretched out more than others, making it less likely we’ll bounce back together in one life or another, but in the end it’s all one big, messy knot that maybe we’re just not meant to untie.

    1. Love the rubber band analogy, it totally works. Thanks Amber

  7. Life is certainly confounding on its best days. I am so invested in the belief that every experience must be mined for meaning–but sometimes as hard as I try I can find none! Still, I go with Carol (above), life is our learning lab and I think the most important lesson is learning to love, both ourselves and others. I mean, I think it is!

    1. Yes, Carol’s comments and observations (as usual) are wise. I feel as though, if this is all a test — or worse a pop-quiz — that I spent the last 30 years studying instead of binge watching TV late into the night.

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