Charles M. Schultz and the Iron Horse Died for Your Seat

Charles M. Schulz, dying, visits the children’s ward at some Midwestern hospital. The kids ask innocent questions, subtly geared toward the “liberal” right-wing and “conservative” right-wing margin of acceptable discourse.  “Will Peppermint Patty marry Charlie Brown?” “Is Lucy good at Math?” “Does Snoopy have a computer in his doghouse?”

The nurses smile and look on. Schulz nods wistfully. He has done this. He has done this. The literate, precoscious, dreaming, debating, neurotic, self-righteous, forever-very-young figments he created will stay with these tykes, and a billion others, possibly more, till they’re dry and moribund as Schultz himself.

Meanwhile, back in the Jungle: thirty-thousand people died in a mudslide that day.  Schultz (still bartering but, according to his agent, “not yet giving up the ghost – unless we get a better severance deal”) watched apocalyptic out-takes, complete with weeping, moaning, prayers, on the hospital TV . Among the dead, one can assume, were the talented, beautiful, bright, compassionate and conscious. Where was this, what impoverished “third world” country? Did they have Valium and Prozac there? Did many of those people live in dread, not daring to seriously consider the depth of suffering and sheer panic such disasters actually bring? Or perhaps some, or many, opted for the great denial of “some day,” not in a million years imagining that “some day” would finally, finally be made manifest in the ever-reliable today?

Zen Mind, Beginner Mind. Right practice. Lose yourself. One word follows another. This word is now. That word was then. The word exists in the present. The word’s past tense ghost carries a different meaning (that of the present-previous, which I suppose is already Past —  why did I write this sentence?).  Etymology is slow, like evolution. Trying to guess what the word might come to mean in the future is ridiculous. Who could know?

Words can befuddle us with all sorts of mischief, particularly when they connote abstract, perhaps imaginary concepts. Like Past and Future.

When we sit we become like Buddha, part of the ‘big mind,’ or some shit like that. Beats those “other” religions, anyway. Though of all the belief-systems I’ve heard or read about, I like those of tribal cultures best, particularly the Sioux (I suppose, being among the last standing, long enough to be “debriefed” by anthropologists and historians, they got the most press).

The fortitude to go to work for The Company day after day as time passes and you lose your self to the “work” they squirt into your laptop or desktop or whatever machine you are attached to. The will to proceed and endure, work hard, no matter how low you’re paid and how many jobs and adderall you gotta take so you can buy that motivational video course and become a millionaire in time for Black Friday, is K-Mart Calvinism.

When Big Media amps up its Rube Radar it casts a wide net. Within days, millions of suckers have paid painful tithes for VIP Membership at the Formica Temple of the Sacred Mall, making pilgrimage to the farthest market regions of this vast chain of Shining Cities on borrowed hills, where everyone has it all:  both parking lot and paradise; a free cable-Internet-phone package; a solar-powered cell-phone/e-Reader/MP3-player/drone-launcher;  and lemon-scented cleanser.

It is better to sit, as at least one Vietnamese Buddhist monk did, calmly and stoically, while dousing himself with gasoline and blazing new trails of resistance and transcendent freedom – especially to the folks at Homeland, watching on TV, amazed at how the just wouldn’t flinch, not even in slo-mo replay.

It is better to sit, as nearly all defeated Native Americans did when told they could sit on the cold ground of The Reservation, or go to the nice, big, smoky factories at the crack of dawn each day and pour their life-energies into 16-hour days of repetitive, mechanical tasks devised to integrate human capital into the more mechanistic, reliable and productive systems of machine capital, via the assembly-line, endorsed by humanitarians of such radically different view-points as Carnegie, Ford and Taylor alike.

Take the Pride of the Yankees, for instance. “The Iron Horse,” Lou Gehrig (Gary Cooper in the movie, which also featured a bloated, boozy, prematurely aging, not-quite-conquered-but-close, Babe Ruth, trying to play his own bloated, boozy world-conquering younger, self in its prime). How many consecutive games played before Gehrig called in sick, “sat” for the rest of the season, and died? 2,181? They didn’t get “sick leave” in those days – just like now.

Listen to me. For real, this time. I saw Gehrig play his first season, when dying in public was about as far from his mind as the golf-schedule of Warren Harding, or as relevant as any truths the panicked, doomsday prophesies of Linus Van Pelt might reveal to his reactionary – some might even say “crabby” — sister, a clinical psychiatrist and skeptic.

Something’s gotta happen.  Soon.  Cause if nothing happens, Nothing is going to happen — big-time.

This Schulz-Gehrig connection – is there a connection? — could be a whole new spiritual, talk-show, marketing thing. You don’t have to do anything dangerous.  Just sit down and — preferably — shut up. Do not go to work, do not go to school, do not pull any break-ins, or petty robberies, if that’s your line. Just sit. Sit until nothing happens. Cause when nothing happens, sooner or later Nothing happens. Then something happens. The entire system that’s eating you and everyone and everything you’ve ever loved or liked (or could just tolerate, barely, though you wouldn’t prefer) can be shut down. Pull the plug. Watch their fictional digital electronic debits and credits swirl down the urinal drain. Watch them ( you know, them) quake and quiver in their steel-and-glass towers as they fall. Tumble. Collapse.

All you gotta do is sit. Perhaps for a while, maybe; possibly for quite a long time. It may get quite uncomfortable. But even so…

Just a thought….

Ever Yours,

The Phantom of /dev/null


Adam Engel has traveled the farthest regions of cyberspace, where Dark-matter meets Doesn't-matter; and Anti-matter, despite its negative connotation and dour point-of-view, excercises rights of expression protected by Richard Stallman's GNU/Free Software Foundation and CopyLeft agreement, if nobody and nothing else. Having spent many years studying Boobus Americanus (Summum Ignoramus), allegedly the most intelligent mammal on earth -- after its distant relative, Homo Sapiens -- in various natural habitats (couch, cubicle, bar-stool, ball-game -- televised or 'real-time') -- Engel has thus far related his observations of and experiences with this most dangerous of predators in three books -- Topiary, Cella Fantastik, and I Hope My Corpse Gives You the Plague (the combined international sales of which have reached literally dozens, perhaps as many as seventy, with projected revenue to top three digits by decade's end! Truly a publishing phenomenon). Engel is Associate Editor of Time Capsule Books, a division of Oliver Arts & Open Press, published in limited editions for a tiny, highly specified, though eclectic, target-audience: people who actually read books. He can be reached at Read other articles by Adam, or visit Adam's website.