Published on August 24, 2018

man looking at the sky

In Search of Duckies and Horsies

There’s an old Peanuts comic strip where Lucy, Linus, and Charlie Brown are lying on a hilltop looking at the sky on a summer afternoon.

Lucy asks, “If you use your imagination you can see lots of things in the cloud formations… What do you think you see, Linus?”

Linus responds, “Well, those clouds up there look to me like the map of British Honduras in the Caribbean… that cloud up there looks a little like the profile of Thomas Eakins, the famous painter and sculptor… and that group of clouds over there gives me the impression of the stoning of Stephen… I can see the Apostle Paul standing there to one side.”

Impressed with the answer, Lucy says, “Uh huh… that’s very good.” Then she turns her attention to the ever-hapless Charlie Brown, “What do you see in the clouds, Charlie Brown?”

Poor Charlie. Looking a little confused, he answers, “Well, I was going to say I saw a ducky and a horsie, but I changed my mind.”

We laugh at this old cartoon because it juxtaposes the unexpectedly mature and wise vision of the world that comes from Linus, the philosopher, with the simple, unadorned, and concrete observations that Charlie Brown can barely stammer out.

Of the two responses, Charlie Brown’s is not only the one that is most concrete and honest—it is also the one that is free of pretense and posturing. He fears it won’t impress Lucy and Linus, so he almost doesn’t say anything at all. But he does, and it gets our attention. Linus imposes an abstracted vision on the summer sky—and Lucy goes along with it.  But Charlie Brown helps us see the sky itself.

In the Psalms it says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good!” (Psalm 34:8). Taste! See! These terms call on us to embrace concrete experiences, not to formulate abstractions. The psalmist reminds us that we live in a sensory world that we experience first of all through taste, touch, smell, sound, and sight.

There is nothing wrong with what Linus sees in the clouds—we need that, too. But start by taking a deep breath. Look up at the summer sky and really see it. Savor each bite, and pay attention to the abundant and fascinating life that is all around us.

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