Childsight

Calvin and Hobbes

I can clearly remember when and where I first saw this picture. I won’t soon forget my initial response.

One look at Hobbes’s expression was all it took to induce a long reflection on whether I had – or more importantly, should –  “put away my life’s childish things.”

I grew up loving “Calvin and Hobbes,” and along with every other child who did, didn’t exactly understand whether the stuffed tiger was, well, really a stuffed tiger. I mean, obviously Hobbes is a stuffed tiger. But the point is, that’s besides the point; it is for Calvin and it is for us.

Could it be that the crumbling state of America’s faith and moral convictions is due not so much to intellectual impoverishment as to an “imaginative impoverishment”? That our thinking poorly is not only a cause but an effect of our seeing poorly?

I read somewhere that a rabbi once said, “What you can understand depends on who you are” (or something close to that).

The cornerstone of our deeply-held beliefs is our vision of what’s true, good and beautiful. Such visions can’t be grasped apart from a powerful imagination, which is not equivalent to fabrication. Reasons and arguments buttress this foundation but don’t constitute it.

This is how Calvin views Hobbes; this is characteristic of how all children view the world, even if they can’t enumerate the Transcendentals. Perhaps this is one of the childlike qualities that Christ and St. Paul meant for us to nurture, not discard or outgrow as we age.

It seems to me that many factors contributing to the erosion of faith and moral convictions aren’t directly intellectual or even religious at all; instead they are fruits of a cultural matrix in which we engage our imaginations less and less to the point where they expire . . . and with them, those visions on which faith and moral convictions depend.

The day that Calvin looked at Hobbes and saw a stuffed tiger truly was a sad day.