Maybe I like Solzhenitsyn because he is just like me; a two-hearted and two-minded male. Enjoy this quote which destroys the self-righteous beliefs of an “ism”, and shows how evil short-circuits every life: past, present, and future. Will You give us the gift of humility to recognize the lies we aim at ourselves today?
“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
Courtesy Charles M. Schulz Museum. “The New Yorker” October 22, 2007
“St. Paul cartoonist Charles M. Schulz’s “Peanuts” appears in papers and soon becomes the most popular comic strip in the United States. Clearly drawn from the “Li’l Folks” cartoons he penned for the St. Paul Pioneer Press between 1947 and 1950, Charlie Brown and company eventually take their adventures to books and television specials.” *
Commencing on October 2, 1950 this comic strip’s first publishing marked the fulfillment of thirteen years of effort. Schulz endured and yet thrived through many challenges in this span. What can we learn about his life previous to this time that enabled him to create, perhaps, the greatest and most ubiquitous cartoon of all time?
Citing a few facts from the Charles M. Schulz Museum’s website, we find some insights. ***
1940- He decides to take correspondence courses from Federal Schools based on their emphasis on cartooning.
1942- At age 20, he is drafted into the United States Army and serves in World War II. (He observed later in his life that “The army taught me all I needed to know about loneliness.”)
1943- His mother, Dena, dies of cervical cancer shortly after his induction to the service.
1945- From February through July 1945, he served in Germany.
1946-1947- He lived with his dad above a barbershop in St. Paul, Minnesota, and gained employment through his former art school, now known as Art Instruction Schools, Inc. He corrected students’ work for the cartooning division of the school, and developed his tastes and talents as to what kind of work he most wanted to produce.
1947-1950- Charles scores his first round of success publishing work for magazines: ‘Collier’s’ and ‘The Saturday Evening Post’, and for newspapers in the ‘Minneapolis Tribune’, and the ‘Saint Paul Pioneer Press’.
Now we pivot to You; the Master Illustrator and Storyteller of the Universe. We remember the Messiah’s ability and use of parables to convey in emotional pictures the deep things of our hearts. Dear Holy Spirit, how we need You today, as everyday, to come and bring revelation. Will You let us erase strife and remember the eternal joys You hold out to us right now? What do You want to say about the everyday heroism of Mr. Schulz, and his beloved storytelling through the characters of “Peanuts”?
As we reflect on this chapter of history with You, we look for a root motive from its author. The main character of Peanuts is an ordinary boy, Charlie Brown, who never stops trying to succeed, but is often hampered with failure and humiliations. His observations about life range from the humorous to the serious. His nature is just like ours; simultaneously plagued with self-doubt and yet unquenchable hope that one day he will be victorious. Let’s go to the mind of the author and see what he had to say about, perhaps, the most beloved and known character of a story of the entire 20th century?
“Charlie Brown has to be the one who suffers, because he is a caricature of the average person. Most of us are much more acquainted with losing than we are with winning.” Charles Schulz **
An omnipresent symbol for generations of readers is summed up in his interactions with Lucy playing football; she holds the ball, he does a tremendous run up for the kick, and at the last second, she pulls the ball away, and he goes flying landing flat on his back. Yet, he never gives up on the notion of making a huge kick-off.
(Allow us an aside to pray this point, Sovereign Lord? Will You forgive the ways we have broken faith in You, ourselves, and others as children? Will You search our root arrogance and character deformations made in our childhood vows? Will You forever make Minnesota a place where the innocent beliefs and hopes of children are returned by their peers and communities? Will You make adults more visible and present in the lives of our future generations?)
Additionally, we see Charlie Brown living in a world of children and their pets. Adults, to my recollection, are never visible. “Peanuts” pulls back the curtain on the lives of his neighborhood kids, and demonstrates that even the very young have strong temperaments and unique character to their personalities. Maybe, this is part of what makes this story stand apart from legions of its competitors; even the small universe of a community or ordinary neighborhood is still a microcosm of our future?
So, we bring You adoration for Charles M. Schulz and the world of “Peanuts”. We thank You that he overcame so many times in the decade before his first publications and successes. He lost his mother, and yet dutifully went to the war. He, subsequently, lost his home, yet adapted to living with his father above a barbershop. He stoked the fires of his dream with commitment to his craft and desire for more for a decade. He shared what he learned with others. He believed in the characters of Peanuts, and we were blessed by his insights into their very small but exceedingly important world(s).
As Minnesotans, we thank You for the fun and “5 cent Psychology” stand lessons of Peanuts! We thank You for a man who, like Charlie Brown, never broke faith on his dream to tell an Odyssey-sized story four cartoon panels at a time. Will You bless our artists, observers, and story-tellers to have the persistence of Schulz? One day, they will win, they will have a glorious kick-off because You are holding the football!
“1At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who then is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
2Jesus invited a little child to stand among them. 3“Truly I tell you,” He said, “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5And whoever welcomes a little child like this in My name welcomes Me.” ***** Matthew 18:1-5 BSB
* P.T.H. cites timeline formerly at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm
“For the first time, the census shows more Minnesotans living in cities than in the country. For example, the population of Cottage Grove Township grows sixfold in the 1950’s. Builders convert thousands of acres of farmland into suburban housing tracts that promise wholesome family living within commuting distance of downtown jobs.” *
Total population in MN = 2,792,300
Total urban population = 1,390,098 (49.80%)
Total rural population = 1,402,202 (50.20%)
Total Population in MN = 2,982,483
Total urban population = 1,624,914 (54.50%)
Total rural population = 1,357,569 (45.50%) *
It’s a bit strange to think that Minnesota’s cities and suburbs are so young. We were mostly a culture of agriculture only 70 years ago, yet that farming tradition changed in roughly the span of a decade?! What prompted these changes, and the results of these new suburban patterns of life?
Let’s recap what happened previous to the fifties; Minnesotans had survived the belt-tightening of the Great Depression, and the duress of WWII. In order to win the war, massive factories like the Twin Cities Ordnance Plant and FMC needed oceans of laborers nearby.**,*** Many of our people who were raised on farms, followed jobs and a sense of patriotic duty to factory jobs in the cities. Our people shoe-horned themselves in the urban housing available at the time, but many looked for a solution to their dilemma of remaining close to work without sacrificing a connection to the land.
Enter the surburbs! Imagine the joy of these ancestors as they moved from tight apartments, trailers, or rented rooms to owning a brand new place in a brand new town with optimistic names like Roseville, Golden Valley, or Richfield?! Granted, their living space didn’t increase dramatically. Many of these early suburban floorplans were under 800 square feet. **** However, now their “apartment” had: two bedrooms, a living room, dinette and kitchen, private bathroom, a front yard, a backyard, a garage, and was at least a full 12 feet from the next-door neighbor’s wall?! They found solace in the idea that they were still close enough to work, but could still see some green every day or even plant a garden on their own land.
So here we come to You in prayer! You are the Master of the Open Field, the Property Manager of All Cities, and the Mayor of the Suburbs. Will You give us insight as we remember this moment in our history with You? Help us think through the impact of shifting from country to city to suburbs.
Let’s begin with some common sense. Living on a farm doesn’t a farmer make. Every people group has its explorers who want, and maybe need to go beyond the shire. It’s just in their nature to be curious about whats around the next corner. So we thank You for the explorers of Minnesota who left the farm to seek a new life in the city. We thank You that their willingness to relocate and adapt helped our society throw off real threats to our freedoms in World War II.
Though we do not think of these “explorers” as refugees in the modern sense, we can acknowledge to You that they were surely displaced peoples. Although they shared the same rights, privileges, and duties of their neighbors in the cities it doesn’t seem a stretch that they did not share in the cultures or sub-cultures of the cities. What kinds of judgments did rural Minnesotans make towards their urban counterparts? How did those raised in the city judge the “small townies”?
One profound difference that comes to mind is that rural people must “make do” out of necessity. When geographically isolated, one must become their own mechanic, carpenter, toolsmith, doctor, and nurse. There is not the luxury to rely on specialists found in the city. So we praise You for the resourcefulness that these rural Minnesotans brought into Minneapolis and Saint Paul. We also ask that You forgive them any judgments of the ineptitude and pettiness of those who only know the streets.
Conversely, those that live in the city, perhaps, are more schooled in people. They can rely more on others because the opportunity for more mutually beneficial relationships exist. They can specialize in a craft or science because survival is no longer a threat. The variety and breadth of opportunity increases with our exposure to more relationships. So we thank You for this type of knowledge of people, and the expansion of opportunity found by the increase of our population living in town. Will You forgive them their judgments of the naivete of the rural, of not knowing or following their etiquette?
In all of these judgments’ past, we still retain their taste in our mouths. We sometimes think of our neighbors as: “hipsters”, “yuppies”, or “thugs” if they’re too urbane. It’s right there on the tip of our tongues when we see a: “hick”, “redneck”, or “backwoods” person fumble to order a coffee. To live in a secure neighborhood surrounded by a small yard is now synonymous with being a: “Karen”, “soccer mom”, “Joe six-pack”, or even, gulp, “suburban”. (And these are the nice derogatory terms we think and feel in our hearts and minds.)
So we land here, Lord, we are inheritors of a mixed fruit basket; some is delectable, and some is rotten. Will You forgive our judgements past, present, and future on their desire to have a safe place to call home? Will You forgive Minnesota our judgments’ based on our neighbor’s place of origin?
Will You bless our cities, suburbs, and rural communities to welcome new neighbors? Will You teach our society to honor those with a different place of origin than ours? You respect our need for place and property; only let us pay that forward.
“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:3 NIV
* P.T.H. cites timeline formerly at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm
“Wonderland Park in Minneapolis draws visitors with a 120-foot-high electric tower. Before going out of business in 1912, the park offers a carousel, a dance pavilion, a scenic railway, and a “House of Nonsense.” “ *
In Your creation, You ordained a day of rest, and have established a pattern for us. You worked six days, and then took a break on the seventh day. Thank You for showing us a plan for a happy life-balance.
Thank You for the creation of Wonderland Park in Minneapolis! Thank You for those who saw some land, and envisioned a tower of lights, a place where anyone could afford to ride a horse, and a place to meet and dance!**
I particularly think You must have taken delight in the “House of Nonsense”! What good grandpa doesn’t relish the laughter, silly jokes, and just plain goofing off with his grandkids? You made a universe of discovery for us, and today I want to acknowledge and thank You for that.
Further, I want to acknowledge the burden of this amusement park on its’ neighbors.* The heavy traffic and noise caused a local church to sue for interfering with worship services. Thankfully, they settled out of court, and rebuilt further away.
In response, I find myself cringing in judgment of the Church of missing Your moments. Granted, the trash, glaring lights, and melismatic din of a permanent carnival could grow very tiring in an era where open doors and windows were the primary means to cool off. Yet, what opportunities to know and serve its patrons were missed in this transplant?
Will You forgive Elim Presbyterian for passing up the opportunity to demonstrate love to Wonderland Park? Will You forgive the same for the Church Universal? We get too caught up in religion to notice the chance for relationship with those literally outside our doors. Christ have mercy.
Will You bless those who experienced this park, and their generations? Will you grant us the grace to be a people who love the Sabbath rest? Will You grant us the gift of having fun? Will you help us see the Wonderland just outside our doors?