It is never quite clear how Charlie Brown and his relatives and friends got their Biblical, political and worldly knowledge. At a fall party launching a new season of our local university-sponsored LIFE organization for older people, we often have a selection of the young music majors specializing in voice and drama sing to us. They are terrific.
This fall one of them sang Charlie’s little sister Sally’s song “My New Philosophy”. The link goes to a YouTube page where you can hear several different singers and a small bit of accompanying dialog. Sally is asked “Why are you telling me?” and immediately sees the question as her new philosophy. My retired friends from the local university department of philosophy and the professors of philosophy I met in graduate school would certainly not consider ‘Why are you telling me?’ a philosophy. When Sally sings the song and introduces us to her new default line of thinking, the one she plans to fall back on in stressful situations, she enunciates her ‘philosophy’ in the tone of voice you might expect: a question used as an unhappy demand to know if the teller believes there is some good reason, some responsibility on Sally’s part to do something about the situation. When her kindergarten teacher tells her a way she can improve her coloring, she intends to demand to know why the teacher is telling her.
Socrates was famous for questions and short statements but most philosophers from his day to now had lots to say or write. The ancients, the moderns and those in between would not accept the idea that “Why are you telling me?” is a philosophy, not a guide to life. However, denial of responsibility, which is itself, after all, an abstract concept, might be a theme for a while. Sally is very quick to change basic philosophies. She might hold on to one for a minute or less. At one point in her song, she decides that her new philosophy will simply be “No!”.
She is definitely not the first little kid to adopt the idea of taking a negative stand against everything. In fact, I think she is actually a bit old to be using No! all the time.
Thinking about Sally and her explorations of philosophy got me interested in Charles Schultz. I downloaded “My Life with Charlie Brown”, a collection of Schultz’s writings. Here is a comment of his on sports, which might be a more fruitful area for Sally than philosophy:
I have always tried to dig beneath the surface in my sports cartoons by drawing upon an intimate knowledge of the games. The challenges to be faced in sports work marvelously as a caricature of the challenges that we face in the more serious aspects of our lives. Anytime I experienced a crushing defeat in bowling, or had a bad night at bridge, or failed to qualify in the opening round of a golf tournament, I was able to transfer my frustrations to poor Charlie Brown. And when Charlie Brown has tried to analyze his own difficulties in life, he has always been able to express them best in sports terms.
Schulz, Charles M.; Inge, M. Thomas (2010-03-18). My Life with Charlie Brown (Kindle Locations 378-382). University Press of Mississippi. Kindle Edition.
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