John Engle – If Jim Henson were alive in 2016 there is a decent chance I would have voted for him for President of the United States. It would not have mattered whether he was running for the office or not. And certainly I doubt he would have been running. Nonetheless, he would have gotten my vote. Heck, I almost wrote in his name anyway. Kermit, Scooter, and Piggy were in the running as well for my vote. As it was, I sat out this past election. Call it disenchantment with both sides of the equation. I think many people felt the same way. As we all know though, the lines have been painfully drawn in this country.
The world has become increasing polarized. Cooperation seems unlikely even if one side suddenly, miraculously, did a complete reversal and came around to the other side’s thinking. Fault-finding and complaint seems more like the end game rather than real problem-solving. I find it frustrating. Infuriating even at times. If I let myself get sucked in too deep it can definitely affect my mood and my day.
I never met Jim Henson nor am I an expert on his life. However, Jim Henson and his creations had a huge impact on me as a kid (and adult). I was a mere lad of five when The Muppet Show debuted on television. I remember watching that with my parents, not knowing who any of the celebrities were for the most part, but enjoying it nonetheless. Laughter and smiles were common when The Muppet Show was on. I also remember getting up to change the channel when it was time for The Muppet Show. For whatever reason, that was a big deal to me. Channel Changer Boy! It was a simpler time (for me anyway). And what a great change of the channel it was. Fun, frivolity, and fantastic times were had by all. I don’t know much about the other shows on television at that time but I feel confident in saying we changed the channel to something imminently better for us than the alternatives we had. The same could be said when we changed the channel to Sesame Street. Certainly a huge part of the life of any five year old in the mid-1970’s.
I don’t pretend to have all the answers to the problems we face as a society. However, I can say with some confidence that what the world needs now is more Jim Henson’s and less politicians. People who look at our world of today with care and concern. People who are more interested in fun, friendliness and creativity than fame, power, politics or money. People not particularly interested in arguing or pointing fingers at others. People with a positive outlook and message. People who look at our broken world and choose to create their own little world or worlds and make them the most fascinating and fun places to be. Just like Jim and company did. I fall well short of this ideal to be sure.
My challenge to you and to myself this year is to be more like Jim. Tune out the negativity. Stay away from the talking heads on TV who yell and scream and mostly seem to increase the divide in this country for the sake of ratings. Block them on Twitter! Focus on the good around you: family, friends, pets, good food, good books, and hobbies. Focus on the good that you can be to those around you. Help a neighbor, donate time to a charity, or simply be kind to a stranger. Change the channel of your life to something imminently better for you. If we do these things, I can almost guarantee that fun, frivolity, and a fantastic time will again be had by all.
John was one of the people who responded to our call for contributors. If you’d like to write for The Muppet Mindset, you can find some info right here!