A comic strip that reproduces a 1990 speech by Bill Watterson, author of the rightfully popular Calvin and Hobbes cartoons, has been making the rounds over the last few days. I’ve seen it shared enthusiastically by Christians on several social media sites, which I can understand. On one level, it can be read as a clear critique of how our society defines “success” and the many ways we can get trapped by that vision, drawn into its soul-destroying way of life. The cartoon is worth reading for that warning alone. (Even though I’m going to critique the cartoon a bit later, please don’t let that keep you from reading it. It’s really worthwhile.)
But the cartoon carries subtler messages as well, ones that warrant more careful consideration.
I think the cartoon actually serves as an excellent example of how we receive messages from our culture every day, ideas that unconsciously shape how we view much of life. And, like many of the messages our culture sends, these can have destructive consequences.
So I think it’s worth taking a few minutes and using this as a case study in analyzing subtle signals. The cartoon is fairly long, and it would be pretty distracting to post all of it before I make my comments. So instead I’m going to mix some excerpts in with my comments and post the entire cartoon below. If you haven’t read it yet–and you should–you may want to skip to the end and then (hopefully) come back for my reflections.
Let’s start with the good.