We Need A Big Bird And A Kermit

One of my favorite things about a Muppet Movie is that they make absolutely no attempt to address the issue of why people and puppets are co-existing in a world where no one questions the presence of a puppet.

Often a Muppet Movie will just jump right into scenes where someone could be walking an actual dog, while also talking to a dog puppet, who may or may not have the ability to sing and play the piano.

Also not explained are puppets who, unlike Kermit or Piggy, are humanoid, but obviously not human… like Dr. Teeth.

You can imagine my surprise when, as a child, I was informed that the Muppets and Sesame Street were made by the same people.

This was startling because on Sesame Street the “actors” consistently talked to the puppets like they were… well puppets. They also went out of their way to make, then reinforce, their points in conversation with puppet characters who seemed highly uneducated and much less sophisticated than their Muppet counterparts.

As a kid I couldn’t stand Sesame Street.  Even at a young age I was able to recognize that not only were they talking down to me, but that they assumed that I also was very stupid and unsophisticated.

The whole thing seemed like an exercise in educating me about things I had very little interest in… like counting and the letter B.

You might be thinking that the difference between these two shows is that one is geared for children and the other is geared for families but the difference is actually greater than that.  As an adult I’ve recognized that I didn’t like Sesame Street because I didn’t like the message that it was sending me:

“You are a child, and you have a lot to learn before you grow up.”

Embedded in their message, as with all attempts at education, is the understanding that we aren’t smart enough or big enough on our own.  We have to rely on those older and wiser than us for growth.  We begin learning as we realize that we don’t know something.

Sesame Street identified what was wrong with me.  It wasn’t the kind of thing that I wanted to hear.

In contrast, the message of most Muppet endeavors is that you DO have what it takes to be successful if you just believe in yourself and do your best.

While the message of Sesame Street is aimed squarely at learners, the message of the Muppet Movies is presented for ” …the lovers, the dreamers, and me!”

Though they couldn’t possibly know how uneducated I was, the Muppets believed in me.  This was something that I really wanted to hear.

I’m not saying that there’s something wrong with the Muppets or with Sesame Street.  I heartily enjoy Muppets and recommend that you watch “The Muppet Movie”, “The Muppets”, and any Muppet film based on classic literature.

The only thing I don’t recommend is Elmo.

Over the years I’ve learned that encouragement and discipline go hand in hand.  Believing in yourself enough to work hard, while understanding that hard work is what improves the weakness of our bodies, minds, and hearts is a cornerstone of life.

Sesame Street tells us what we need to do, while the Muppets reinforce what we want to believe.

What I’m pointing out is that when it comes to human growth and development you need Big Bird and Kermit working in conjunction with each other. Choosing self-belief without knowledge can create an illegitimate  fantasy world in the same way that choosing knowledge without emotional support can deprive us of the motivation necessary for achievement.

This is difficult because humanity often recoils from assertions regarding our insufficiency.

I know I did.  It was much more pleasant to entertained by Fozzie and Gonzo than educated about Julio by Paul Simon.

Chasing comfort while rebuffing the discipline that it takes to learn and grow always leads to disastrous character development.

Everybody loves a “Kermit”, the kind of person who believes in you no matter what.  They’re always willing to dust off a banjo in an effort to pick you up when it isn’t easy being green.

It’s much simpler to surround ourselves with “Kermits”, but does the comfort they bring come at a cost?

Is there a Big Bird in your life?  Who is the person that confronts you in the areas that you need to grow in?  I’ve learned that the moments when I think having a Kermit around would be great are usually the moments when I’m actually in need of receiving “the bird” from a close friend… pun intended.

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, 
   but whoever hates correction is stupid.

 The way of fools seems right to them, 
   but the wise listen to advice. -Proverbs 12:1, 15

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