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January 1, 2008

Regarding Linus

“What if I say I’m not like the others –
What if I say I’m not just another … “
- Foo Fighters, “The Pretender” (on sidebar)

*
In the fall of 1965, cartoonist Charles Schulz agreed to create an animated Christmas special featuring the characters from his Peanuts comic strip. At several points during the process, he nearly abandoned the task.

Schulz had several items of concern during the creative process. It was the first animated special he had attempted, and he was apprehensive about how his characters would transition from their customary comic strip stills into dynamic animation. He struggled to match the children available for voice work with each individual character. He had a shoestring budget which resulted in disjointed production and substandard sound mixing.

But mostly, he was concerned that his primary message would be neglected.

The video clip from my Christmas Eve post was the most contentious point between Schulz and the CBS executives in charge of the project. Schulz was adamant that no Christmas special would be complete without a Biblical reference to the birth of Jesus; the networks feared that such an overt religious gesture would anger viewers.

Schulz stubbornly stood his ground, even when threatened with cancellation of the program. The network eventually conceded the point, and prepared for a storm of criticism, figuring they’d cut their losses on what they presumed would be a one-time presentation.

Of course, Linus’s monologue was widely praised by both critics and viewers, and stands today as the centerpiece of one of the most beloved Christmas specials of all time. It’s a moment of lasting significance that distinguished A Charlie Brown Christmas from the rapidly growing crowd of simplistic holiday fare. It also marks the point at which Charles Schulz definitively found his voice.

Unfortunately, finding a voice is never as easy as it appears, and creating lasting significance among the commonplace is even more elusive. These are some of the considerations I’ve been pondering lately in regards to this blog.

Those of us who participate in this medium come to it for a wide variety of reasons. We may want a place to document our progression through training programs (or through life in general), a forum to express our viewpoint or feelings about our circumstances, or merely an outlet to unload whatever thoughts are cluttering our heads.

However varied they may be, most of our reasons tend to be relatively self-serving. We’re each the master of our own microuniverse, free to write or rant or ramble about absolutely anything, and to do so on our own terms. Whether or not anyone actually cares is a secondary concern.

The irony is that despite our varied intentions, many of us end up sounding dreadfully similar. After all, there are only so many ways to describe the miles we run or laps we swim or roads we ride on – and the more endurance blogs you surf through, the harder those reports are to distinguish.

(On a somewhat related note - it’s probably no coincidence that I love folks like Stronger and Craig and Susanna: people who bring a unique perspective to this strange little community of ours, and share their stories in a way that is more insightful than simple mileage and workout sessions.)

So my ambition for the upcoming year is to make like Charles Schulz. I want to provide something beyond reporting about my training for upcoming races. I want to offer occasional moments of importance, and hopefully establish some greater meaning that stands out from this otherwise trivial existence. I want to find my voice.

The hard part is that I’m not sure exactly what that means. It’s quite likely that I already have a voice – one of an idiot who completely overanalyzes things. And I can’t simply switch personas and try to be someone I’m not (in other words, don’t worry - you’ll still find plenty of ridiculous stuff around here). I guess all I’m really committing myself to is doing the same things I’m already doing, but with a higher purpose in mind.

I’m challenging myself to grow: to find more significance in my everyday observations, to willingly profess the values and ideals I believe in, and to somehow, in some small way, improve the lives of those with whom I cross paths.

It seems like an ambitious standard to maintain – and that’s why today seems like the right day to proclaim it.

16 comments:

Rainmaker 1/1/08, 4:11 PM  

So far - so good, just keep doing what you're doing. Plus, you've got that nifty little ribbon to prove it. ;)

And if all else fails, simply resort to posting photos of hot tri chicks. :) I'll stay around for that.

Curly Su 1/1/08, 4:17 PM  

hey, thanks! that was nice to read...and you know what? your voice really is unique-- you know that! just keep at it; you ARE already making a difference.

Annette 1/1/08, 4:29 PM  

I'm surprised that the networks were that concerned about Biblical views on TV in '65. I guess I shouldn't be!

Good luck finding your voice with higher purpose. I have a hard time believing that you feel like you need to find your voice. Yours is much stronger than many of ours.

Happy 2008!

Addy 1/1/08, 6:44 PM  

Good luck with this goal for the new year. Making significant postings is a worthy endeavor and one which I will enjoy watching as you progress :)

momo 1/1/08, 7:25 PM  

donald, truly, i think you are well on your way. keep on keeping on and you'll get where you want to be. the bonus is that we'll all get to enjoy the ride along the way.

happy new year.

angie's pink fuzzy 1/1/08, 7:48 PM  

well I can totally respect wanting to find your voice. I also happen to think you already have it; it's what keeps me coming back to read more and what puts a smile on my face. I know what I'm going to read when I click on your blog: funny, amusing rants/raves/thoughts/analysis on running, swimming and biking, with pop culture analogies before. I admire your voice and enjoy "hearing" it on a regular basis.

Backofpack 1/1/08, 8:12 PM  

I have to agree with all your commenters - from the perspective of the reader, you already have your voice. I think about the same thing sometimes and wonder what keeps people reading when I am simply posting about my runs. I have lots of thoughts and wonderings and philosophies, but to just sit down and write them out stymies me. I find they are more easily expressed through conversation - the back and forth stimulates my thought process and keeps it flowing. Anyway, keep posting and I'll keep reading.

Runner Susan 1/2/08, 6:59 AM  

wow! that is really deep. I just want to love 20 lbs.

Happy new year!

Deene 1/2/08, 9:06 AM  

happy new year! best wishes in finding your voice and continue to inspire the rest of us with the simple mileage reports.

jen 1/2/08, 12:16 PM  

Happy New Year! Good luck in your goals. I enjoy your writing very much and it impresses me that you strive to improve.

greyhound 1/2/08, 2:29 PM  

Although this blog is somewhat new to me, I agree that you do have a voice. How interesting, as well, that we both wrote a post about using the blog in a more significant fashion.

Makita 1/2/08, 10:17 PM  

Again, I don't know how to say it any better than Michelle, but you have found your voice. I don't think that little yellow ribbon in your sidebar would be there if you hadn't. Keep up the great work. :)

the Dread Pirate Rackham 1/2/08, 10:24 PM  

as usual, you describe an aspect of what I want to say before I can get to it. thanks for speaking for that part of my brain.

craig 1/2/08, 11:57 PM  

I remember hearing Linus' monologue as a kid when the special first aired. The story was terribly familiar in one sense. But hearing it in the unexpected context of a primetime TV program made it stand out in stark relief.

You have a unique gift for communicating sport and life through simple everyday illustrations and experiences to which anyone can relate. You are culturally aware, provide thoughtful commentary without taking life or yourself too seriously, and supply more than a few laughs along the way. I come here on a regular basis hoping some of all that will rub off on me.

Darrell 1/6/08, 12:41 PM  

I'd have to say that you, Donald, are already among the best. I wish I had an ounce of the wit and creativity you possess.

You raise the yardstick a little higher for the rest of us. Keep it up.

Fe-lady 1/7/08, 7:38 AM  

You are a WRITER! So you say things so well and DO bring an aspect to the sport that few do...I too like reading the posts that bring personal messages and stay away from numbers accumulated.
I am TRYING to write...but usually don't have the patience/time to do so, so end up posting pix to make things interesting.
I want a BLOG, not a BLAHG...
You sir, have a BLOG! With substance...

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