Calvin and Hobbes…and Whitney Houston

There are two reasons to read the Sunday paper: the extended sports coverage and the funnies. (Yes, I’ve been told the funnies are really the comics, but I still call them the funnies). One of my favorite strips involved a discontented young boy named Calvin and his stuffed tiger, Hobbes, who would come to life, at least in Calvin’s imagination, whenever no one else was in the room. In one series of strips, Calvin turns an old refrigerator box into a duplicator and pretends that he has made a bunch of copies of himself. Running this ruse on his teacher and his mother leads to wrath in just about every area of his life.

As they are sitting in time out, boy and tiger ruminate a bit:

Calvin Well, Hobbes, I guess we learned a valuable lesson from the duplicating mess.
Hobbes And that is?
Calvin And that is, um… it’s that, well… OK, so we didn’t learn any big lesson. Sue me.
Hobbes Live and don’t learn, that’s us.

(Source: The Indispensable Calvin and Hobbes)

This is the central problem that all of us face, whether we are seven years old or seventy — if we do not learn from our mistakes, and the mistakes of others, then things never get better.

I’ve read posts from a lot of really angry people in the last day or two, about the fanfare given to the passing of Whitney Houston. Most of these mad people talk about how she was a crackhead and a drug addict, and that she really just wasted her talents. Instead of lowering the flags to half-mast, as the state of New Jersey did, and having a nationally broadcast funeral, as several channels and many online news feeds provided for us, these people seem to think that Whitney should have been buried in a pine box in a lonely field, or perhaps dumped into the Indian Ocean, like Osama bin Laden.

For better or for worse, though, we are a culture of celebrity. Which is why, yesterday afternoon, my wife had a television tuned to Whitney Houston’s funeral. I wasn’t really paying any attention until I heard some of the eulogy, given by the Rev. Marvin Winans. Here’s the whole thing — parts of it are worth watching and thinking about.

Rev. Winans had a lot to say about grace and forgiveness, but he also said something that, while just true as his message about grace, should make us pay much better attention to the way we spend our time. He said:

“The lives we live are the gift we give to God.”

Did Whitney Houston give the best gift to God that she could have? Probably not. But do you think that, when she was a nine-year-old girl dreaming about her future, that she looked forward to a life of Bobby Brown and narcotics? Probably not, either.

So, once those of you who are angry are done dancing on her grave, go and think about what you are spending your time on the planet preparing for your Maker to see. If your belief system doesn’t include an afterlife, what kind of legacy are you building for those behind you to remember? For your children to aspire to?

This was a hard lesson for Onlooker Slowdown. Reading about one of the greatest vocal talents of our time dying far too soon and leaving far too much talent on the table definitely gave me pause. Moving forward from Rev. Winans’ eulogy, it occurred to me that I will never look back and wish I’d watched more television. Or complained more about the everyday annoyances of being a responsible person. Or spent more time thinking about myself.

So, after you read this, get off the computer. Go call your mom. Go give your kid a noogie, and then run away in the opposite direction. Kiss the one you love the most. Then go pick up that talent that you can do so well, that you just can’t find the time to spend time doing. And shoot your television. Whitney’s voice came straight from God’s own choir — but each of us has a great thing that we were made to do, but each day that goes by is one less day that we can bring Him glory by doing it.


2 Responses to “Calvin and Hobbes…and Whitney Houston”

  1. I'm trying to think of someone we have celebrated (or continue to celebrate), who was perfect in every way. (and who had paparazzi following around to be sure). don't we normally celebrate the Good in people, despite the Other?

  2. Celebrating the good seems to be a later response than piling on, which seems to come first…note, for example, the outpouring of goodwill towards Joe Paterno now that some time has gone by in the Sandusky imbroglio. First, he was a feckless, corrupt stooge who just stood by. Now, it seems that he may have actually done a lot of good during his lifetime too.

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