Saturday, April 2, 2011

Fool’s Paradise

By Cynthia Edwards 
An essay in the book Creative Spirit Musings

In a classic Peanuts cartoon, Snoopy is dancing joyfully all around the neighborhood, his hind legs a whir of movement, his forearms outstretched, his ears fluttering gaily in the breeze. Crabby little Lucy comes along and watches his uninhibited display with disgust. “War! Pestilence! Doom!” she shouts after his bouncing form. Paralyzed by these words, Snoopy stops in his tracks, visibly droops, and a depressive cloud forms above his head. Lucy walks away, triumphant. Clearly she feels that she has injected the right note of reality into Snoopy’s world, and that now he will behave with more appropriate solemnity.

But no sooner does Lucy leave the frame than the cloud dissolves, and Snoopy resumes his abandoned dance.

Lucy and Snoopy present us with two sides to the story of Life. Lucy’s view is Hobbesian, suggesting that we live in “... continual fear and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”

Snoopy, on the other hand, sees the upside of life and celebrates it with his whole being. I’m positive that Lucy would say Snoopy was living in a fool’s paradise. This lovely-sounding phrase was introduced to the language by Will Shakespeare. The Bard intended it to mean “a vain hope,” but it can also be read as “an illusory state of well-being.”

Vain or illusory it might seem to the crabapples of this world, but like Snoopy, I choose to inhabit my own brand of fool’s paradise. I know it, I like it and I have no plans to move out. My spirit has a buoyancy that outward events just can’t destroy. To borrow from the delightful James Thurber, it’s “my world and welcome to it.”

Any Christian has the right to go through life with a similar attitude of gratitude and joy. Have we not been saved by Christ and promised real Paradise when we shuffle off this mortal coil? Do we not have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit sustaining us through all of life’s difficulties? Does God’s love not rush around us and through us like a torrential river of Life and Hope?

Like Snoopy, my lifelong idealism has been looked on askance by numerous intellectuals, one of whom recently told me I lead a “sheltered existence.” The implication was that since evil and injustice exist most everywhere, if anyone can maintain ideals, they must be quite blind to reality.

Dear friends, I am not blind to reality. In fact, I believe I see far better than the Lucy’s of this world who are fixated on the darkness, because I see the world – warts and all – illuminated with the true Light of God.

Don’t look down

Paul told the Philippians, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14) Even though he was writing from prison, Paul demonstrated an upward-looking philosophy. It’s like the advice not to look down while climbing a high mountain. Verily, the abyss yawns below, but only if you stare into it will you become disoriented and fall.

It may be a form of madness to dwell on problems and pain, especially when this prevents one from living the fullest possible life today. If one has sinned against others, it is possible – necessary, really – to repent, repair as much as one can, and start fresh. Even in the throes of illness or oppression one can be grateful for life and cheerful about one’s eternal prospects.

In her book Why People Don’t Heal (and How They Can), medical intuitive Carolyn Myss wrote that many sick or troubled people never become well simply because they persist in identifying themselves with past pain. The wound in question may be a history of abuse, violence, sickness, addiction, and so on. These are all very serious events. But to get mired in the memory – to become a lifelong victim – simply locks one in the past. The path to healing lies along embracing an identity that celebrates God’s original plan for human wholeness.

Does that mean living in a fool’s paradise? Oh, no. Our hope is real. The fool is the one who says in his heart, “There is no God.” (Psalm 14:1)

As for me, I follow the way of Snoopy, and Fred Astaire. Whatever life may bring, I shall face the music ... and dance.

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