Archive for the ‘Life Lessons’ Category

I’ve always been fascinated by irony. You know: driving on parkways and parking on driveways, Greenland being covered in ice and Iceland being nice and green, saying someone is “pretty ugly.” But I would have to say my favorite slice of bass-ackwords phrasing and logic is “Dumbo.” Even the dumbest person in the world knows what the word dumb means. People have been referring to the cerebrally deficient as “dumbos” since before dirt was invented. But the character that the word was derived from is anything but dumb. In fact, his very story epitomizes wisdom like King Soloman on steroids. And growing up as an ignorant youth, the movie “Dumbo” taught me an invaluable life lesson.

For those of you not fortunate enough to have any familiarity with the legend of “Dumbo”, it’s a simple story of an outcast finding his way in the world. Only this outcast is a baby circus elephant with ears bigger than Donald Trump’s ego. The tiny tike would literally trip over his own ears when he walked. Needless to say, he would get picked on by everyone and everything. And he was in a circus! Talk about the pots poking fun at the kettle. Dumbo didn’t have a friend in the world. Except for a wise-cracking little mouse named Timothy. That’s right, this elephant was so alone that he befriended a mouse. Which is bananas since we all know that elephants are terrified of mice.

For the first time in Dumbo’s little life, someone chose to spend time with him, believe in him and genuinely care about him. For whatever reason, Timothy had complete and utter faith in his little pal and tirelessly tried to get him to believe in himself. But it was hard for Dumbo to do so. Why wouldn’t it be? His whole life people had mocked him, doubted him and treated him with no respect . And that’s if they bothered to acknowledge him at all. But Timothy’s faith in Dumbo was rewarded. Through a series of events, Dumbo become the star attraction of the circus. He was “The World’s Only Flying Elephant!!” You see, Dumbo’s gargantuan size ears gave him the ability to soar through the air like Christopher Reeves in blue spandex. Well, his ears and a super wondrous, one of a kind, uber magical feather. A feather that Timothy got special from his friends, the crows. (look, let’s just agree to save the whole crow-racism-thing for another blog post)

So with his magic feather, Dumbo finally gained some self-esteem and believed in himself. He performed like Jordan in the playoffs and never doubted himself in any way. That is of course until he lost his magic feather while doing a free fall. Dumbo’s worst fears suddenly became a harsh reality. The little guy literally lost his magic! And more importantly, he lost his faith in himself. As Timothy and Dumbo dropped like an anvil in a Road Runner cartoon toward the earth, Timothy confesses to Dumbo that the feather was a fake. It never had any magic or gave him the ability to fly. All that came from within. He did it on his own. He was the magic. And right before Timothy and Dumbo paint the ground red in the worst way possible, Dumbo pulls up like a Tuskegee Airman and flies away.

As a child, Dumbo was the very first super hero I looked up to. He had an incredible origin story, could fly and his sidekick was a bad-ass little mouse. But as I got older, I appreciated Dumbo for other reasons. Over the course of my life, I faced bullies, felt unwanted by others and doubted myself. I would then often times wish for a magic feather. Something amazing that would instantly fix my life. Give me the power to fly. But I would never get one. Timothy never showed up with one in his hand. And that’s the point. Timothy never gave one to Dumbo either. All Timothy did is show Dumbo what he saw: an amazing being that had the ability to do whatever he set his mind on. Every day, I have to remember that I have the power to make change. I have to remember to believe in myself when I don’t know how. Like Dumbo, I have to remember to strive to see what Timothy sees and stop looking for magic feathers.

So if anyone ever calls you a “Dumbo” take a bow and say “thank you.”

There aren’t many things in this world that I pride myself on. I like sports but can’t really scroll off a lot of stats. I like to cook but struggle to eat some of mine own dishes. However when it comes to cartoons, I excel like no other. I didn’t just grow up watching them as a child. I still watch them as an adult. I’ve bought several of my favorite series on DVD and have taken numerous classes on them throughout my schooling. You’re probably wondering why. Why would a grown man care so much about animated, anthropomorphic creatures running around like they have no sense in abstract universes with arbitrary parameters? Because cartoons taught me some of the greatest life lessons I ever learned.

One of my favorite cartoons is “Pinky and the Brain.” If you aren’t familiar with this show, the Brain is essentially the leader or “brains” of the duo while Pinky supplies comic relief along with moral support. The show’s premise is very simple: two lab mice try to take over the world on a daily basis. I say daily because they literally fail every single time they try to accomplish this goal. And there in lies the lesson. For whatever reason, the Brain feels he is destined to become ruler of the world.

And despite his exceedingly high intelligence, he’s still just a simple lab mouse that stands maybe 4 inches high, has no army, no funding, no real area of expertise and has no chance of success. Yet every day, him and Pinky try with all their might to fulfill their dream. They never give up. They might get weary, discouraged and frustrated but they never give up. They evaluate their mistakes and move forward. They try new and innovative ideas, adapt and grow.

Real life works a lot like this. I’ve never tried to take over the world necessarily but I have met it head on countless times. I’ve struggled with adversities and obstacles that I care not to share. And just like Pinky and the Brain, I’ve gotten weary, discouraged and frustrated. I’ve wanted to call it quits and forget that I ever had any dreams or aspirations in the first place. But because of their example, I’ve always been able to find some hope. I’ve persevered against odds that I’d once thought were insurmountable. And just like Pinky and the Brain, I’ve had to do it on a daily basis. I’ve had to find new and innovative ways to face my problems. I’ve had to find strength in places I’d never thought I would.

And like the Brain, I’ve been fortunate enough to have a “Pinky” or two at my side to help me when I lose my way. To keep me focused when I don’t know which way is up. And to care about me when the world is beating me down. After all, if two tiny lab mice can keep their heads up, what excuse could I possibly have?

I don’t expect everyone to have the same take-aways from cartoons that I do. People interpret stories in their own way. But my hope is that after reading this you at least have some appreciation for cartoons that you might not have had before. I’ve often been criticized for being too old to watch cartoons. To which I respond, I’m too old not to.