The Linus Equation

lucyGet ready for some complex mathematical formulas and profound discussions of philosophical inquiries, with some detailed dissection of quantum theory and a smattering of Hesiod’s Theogony for flavouring.

Just kidding. We’re going to talk about Peanuts.

The thing that Charles M. Schulz knew when they first appeared in 1950 was that everyone would be able to identify with it in some way. These were archetypal characters from everyone’s life, their traits enhanced for comic effect though the humour was often rich with a psychological and philosophical subtext. Though each of us has some sorrowful Charlie Brown, some snooty Lucy, or some carefree and adventurous Snoopy (with a dash of Pig-Pen maybe because who doesn’t like the odd quiet day filled with nothing but bedhead and ass-scratching?), Linus, who first appeared in diapers back in 1952, is the one I most relate to these days.

This is what Mr Schulz had to say about him:

“Linus, my serious side, is the house intellectual. [He’s] Bright, well-informed, which I suppose may contribute to his feelings of insecurity.”

His dichotomous nature always appealed to me, even back when I had no idea what dichotomous meant (or that the word even existed). I still remember the first time I watched him say “Lights” on the school stage as they were trying to rehearse the Christmas play, though that, and many memories from my childhood, are soaked in sensations and feelings and the only details of the show I know now are from many years of re-watching A Charlie Brown Christmas as I grew up. He sucked his thumb and never went anywhere without his security blanket, yet he spoke so eloquently about so many different subjects. While Lucy provided the psychiatric help for five cents, it was her little brother who usually provided the best insight.

And there was always that blanket.

It was symbolic of the things we hang onto that give us comfort and often courage when we’re wanting for both, and to some extent, we all have one we can think of off the top of our heads, but probably more we don’t even realise exist. They can be actual items (maybe even a blanket), people or other living things in our lives, or even something as esoteric as an idea; They can be healthy tools on a longer journey, health-neutral in the greater scheme of things, or debilitating crutches that actually work to hold us back when we would be – should be – walking normally without them. On its own, a blanket is just a blanket. We give it the power to do so much more.

When I go to appointments with my doctor or other official type places where I expect to be sitting in a waiting room of some sort, a sure-fire recipe for anxiety, I often carry a large notebook with me with a pen clipped into the binding. Ostensibly this is to scribble ideas or thoughts as they come to me, and I do use it for that, but this is no ordinary little journal. This one has weight to it. It’s bound in Italian leather with a lovely embossed design, a large flap that closes over the front and a rawhide cord to tie it together. It often gets comments from people, too, which can at once be both pleasant and problematic for me, but besides it usefulness as an actual notebook I’ve come to realise it is, and I even call it, my Linus’ blanket. I bought it for myself a few years back shortly after my mother had passed, as a birthday present she would’ve given me if she could. It’s heft and its texture has a warmth to it. The leather is wearing slowly and pleasantly. It’s as much a treat as it is a bother to open and write in.

Here’s the thing, though; I don’t carry it with me everywhere. It doesn’t come to the grocery store or on a quick run to the corner smoke shop. If I don’t have it, that alone won’t inspire a panic attack, though it can help mitigate or even head one off at the pass if I do. I consider it a healthy tool in that regard, or at least health-neutral. Linus, on the other hand, would often have fits without his blanket. That alone doesn’t mean it was an unhealthy crutch, though, simply that at the time it was more necessary to his well-being, his ability to manage whatever anxiety issues he had and live a relatively normal daily life, than my nice notebook is to me. We’ll never know if he’d have grown out of it, if it would’ve taken on a more sentimental than a useful role, or even been relegated to box in a closet or given to his own little Linus Jr. eventually. The Peanuts never grew up. That was really the point, though, wasn’t it?

It’s always been my goal here to avoid discussing things of a more political nature, but as an example of ideas as security blankets, and unhealthy ones at that, it’s really hard to avoid. Especially lately. The belief that a particular group of people are genetically inferior to another, the entrenched worldviews that find people proselytising on nationalism, ignoring the basic tenets that form the foundation of the society that allows them to do that in the first place, seems purpose made for that. There’s fear of change, certainly, and other things I don’t want to go into because I’d probably wind up on some soapbox tangent of my own, but ultimately it’s what I’ve termed The Linus Equation at work in its most detrimental form. People clinging to ideas that are outdated and just plain bad, ignorant of reality and refusing to accept different thoughts because it would mean ripping their blanket away and they’ve got a death-grip on that ratty old thing.

Having a Linus’ blanket of your own does not mean you’re childish or weak, any more than it means your sister is a narcissistic sociopath who’s going to pull the football away every time your best friend tries to kick it. It’s simply a tool like any other, neither good or bad in and of itself. Comfort is a nice feeling, over-reliance probably not so much, but like most things, there’s a broad spectrum of needs and where your blanket sits on that is something you have to figure out for yourself.

That’ll be 5¢ please.

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