– Bill Watterson, from “Calvin and Hobbes: It’s a Magical World”

Greetings from the writer’s loft! It’s time for a serious post. It’s time to talk about one my favourite authors. It’s time to talk about Calvin and Hobbes.

Unfortunately, in a discussion of “great art,” humourists often get left out. But why? Humour is like sunshine for our souls, and one of the defining characteristics of humanity is our inexplicable sense of humour.

When I was a kid, I read Calvin and Hobbes with gusto. I loved Calvin’s mischievous spirit and wicked imagination. I was always the “good kid,” which is probably why Calvin fascinated me. He said things we all think, but never have the guts to say, and he got up to the best kinds of trouble. As I grew older, I found myself returning to these comics again and again, and I still thoroughly enjoy them.

I could go on at length about the wit and wisdom of Bill Watterson, but sometimes humour is best left to speak for itself. Instead, let us mourn the failure of the lucky underpants together with a moment of respectful silence.

*Respectful silence.*

Now, contrary to what I just said, I’m going to say something, because this is a blog.

I gave an appreciative chuckle when I saw this comic. Then, as is often the case with Watterson, I stopped to think about it. Do you ever have one of those days? I’ve recently had a few, and this sums it up perfectly.

Calvin’s day, for those unfamiliar with the comics, started with bright determination as he donned his best underpants and grinned triumphantly into the mirror. Then he proceeded to sit on gum, get bullied, fail his presentation, get left out during recess, suffer through an unappetizing lunch, feel stupid in class, get sprayed by the water fountain, miss the bus, and have to walk home in the rain.

The humour lies in the fact that we’ve all been there. We’ve all faced disappointments in life, both big and small. And we’ve all sat there staring out a window with a kind of helpless resignation, as if the world failed us despite all our best hopes and efforts. Hobbes’ response is necessary: it both sympathizes with us and mocks our efforts with delightful understatement. What else can we do?

We laugh because although those days seem overwhelming and sometimes, yes, traumatizing, we know it’s not the end of the story. We have a choice. We can let those days linger in our mind, saying we’re not good enough, or not successful enough, or just plain unlucky. Or we can–like Calvin–continue forward in stubborn joy. Another day means another opportunity, another chance. Tomorrow, we know Calvin will be back to his usual shenanigans, digging up treasure (worms), philosophizing during a freewheeling plunge through the forest, or dreaming up another brilliant episode of Spaceman Spiff. And I think we can learn from that. It’s not mindlessly ignoring our failures, but it’s knowing that failure and frustration don’t have to be the end of the story. 

In short, we can turn the page.