“I suspect that most of us get old without growing up, and that inside every adult (sometimes not very far inside) is a bratty kid who wants everything his own way. I use Calvin as an outlet for my immaturity, as a way to keep myself curious about the natural world, as a way to ridicule my own obsessions, and as a way to comment on human nature. I wouldn’t want Calvin in my house, but on paper he helps me sort through my life and understand it.” -Bill Watterson, author of Calvin and Hobbes
I love how Watterson pays attention to childhood without idealizing it. I love how he sees the playful, joyful curiosity, and also sees the obsessive, self-involved immaturity. Perhaps most of us have scared, selfish brats buried not too deep, wanting things and throwing things and screaming until someone else cleans up. Perhaps we are still the playful, curious children who, with learning hands and open minds, reached out into a new world and made friends. Perhaps we can admit that, make space for that. Perhaps we can be both children, and the adults we’ve become, and make a harmony of the varied whole.
Watterson seems to make that harmony by peacefully admitting the different voices. By giving the brat, the child and the artist their moment, their page, he’s grounded his wonderful world in the ridiculous and the insightful, the immature and the wise. Perhaps we can all grow like that. After all, roots and leaves work together, even though they work in different ways and opposite directions. In Yoga, we “press down to rise up,” settling our feet to raise our heads. Interactions are often mysterious or multifaceted. (Speaking of multifaceted: a human is about 19% carbon, anthracite coal is about 90% carbon, and diamonds are 100% carbon; who can tell what the same building blocks, arranged differently, might make? A chemist, I suppose–but try your chemistry on Hobbes and you’ll get a faceful of paws). Children are both cruel and kind. Relationships are both frustrating and rejuvenating. The world is frightening and inspiring. It’s by painting with all the colors he has that Watterson has made a world so brimful of life.
So the demons outside your doors, the voices in the dark, the goofy giggles: maybe it’s time to let them out and hear them (which isn’t the same as doing what they say). Maybe they’re boys in red shirts, or tiger-friends. After all, the boy who would tear apart a real house can help us build our lives, and we all have time to play and cause havoc with Calvin.