The Muppets Embracing Diversity for 50 years
I follow the Tao of Muppets.
At the age of remembering, for me that was the age of 3, I became an avid fan of the Muppets via Sesame Street. It first aired on the CBC in Canada in 1969. I was 2, although I believe my Gran had it on for me while the rest of the family was working in the printshop next door. I don’t have any tangible recollection of the program that early on. I do remember a conversation with my mom when she asked me which preschool class I would prefer, morning or afternoon. For a kid of the early 70’s in Canada, the good shows were on in the morning. That left the afternoon for social interaction, imaginative play and mischief. She agreed with me, and that was the very first choice I remember making. It was significant, it affected my life and it made me feel grown up with responsibility.
These were the days before Elmo. Super Grover was the one I related to most. He had a cape, he was kind, he often made mistakes, and he learned from all those mistakes. I loved Super Grover, his alter ego Grover was just as delightful. Kermit was the adult muppet. Always in control, always making sound choices and I found comfort in him – yet I didn’t bond with Kermit until I became an adult myself.
The Muppets were friends, family and advisors. I learned without realizing what I was gaining. I do remember other influences in my life, my parents, my grandparents and of course extended family. Within that circle the Catholic Church played a large role. Now, all you Christians may think that being Catholic doesn’t mean being Christian. I have had this discussion a million times, and let me tell you this. Don’t judge what you don’t know or don’t understand. Delve into the teachings and you will discover that the two are not that different. Christ is the foundation of the beliefs. Yet not once do I recall the Church judging me or my family. The parishoners – absolutley, but not the Church itself. I learned that everyone tries their hardest to follow the teachings of Christ and at no time was it ever okay to judge someone else because they are only human. This also meant embrace each other, for we don’t know, nor could we possibly understand their struggle. Walk a mile in their shoes and then only do you get a glimpse of the struggles of the human spirit. Value based teachings still reside within me today. Yet I do not practice being Roman catholic, I do practice Dignity,Respect, Honesty, Loyalty, and Fairness. Kindness and Compassion are what comes forward by practicing those core values.
Funny thing is, the Muppets taught me this too. Jim Henson was a compassionate genius. His values came through the characters he portrayed and flowed into the characters of his puppeteers. The things I learned are a great foundation for all souls and the corporate aspect happened because of the success of his teachings, his efforts and his example. There is not a successful business that lasted the test of time without these fundamental values. More importantly, The Muppets’ teachings have lasted and influenced generations of people, all striving to be the same, kind, compassionate, accepting and human. Not that the Muppets were human, but they had that human spark thanks to the hands underneath them. With that said, let’s look closer at the Tao of the Muppets.
- Dignity – bearing, conduct, or speech indicative of self-respect or appreciation of the formality or gravity of an occasion or situation. Each one of those fluffy critters was treated with dignity and treated each other with dignity.This showed through in the manner in which they learned. They never shamed or belittled each other, but embraced the need for knowledge and understanding.
- Respect –esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability: I have great respect for her judgment. There was never a more diverse motley crew than the Muppets. They all respected the thoughts, opinions and choices of others. This is hard to do when you feel you are right in knowledge and passing judgement is typically the path people take. This never happened within the Muppets – aside from Waldorf and Statler. Those characters were needed to show the ugliness of judgement. It taught you the path of compassion and empathy. Seeing the hurt feelings of another and what it does to the human spirit is heartbreaking, yet it was an important lesson that needed to be taught.
- Honesty –truthfulness, sincerity, or frankness. Freedom from deceit or fraud. This was always a lesson learned by the younger Muppet. Big Bird, Robin, Grover all experienced how it felt to lie or deceive and the consequences that went along with it. The kindness from the older Muppets or adults really showed the importance of honesty and how it clears your conscience. A hard lesson to learn when lies pour so easily out of the mouths in an effort to gain. Yet having empathy and compassion on both sides show that honesty is the better choice.
- Loyalty – faithfulness to commitments or obligations. No one showed more loyalty than Kermit. He moved mountains in an effort to show his fellow Muppets what they meant to him and how he would choose them over anyone in spite of their choices. He cared deeply about outcomes and was always dependable. His loyalty made him accountable to the thing he treasured most, friendship or in this case, family.
- Fairness – the state, condition, or quality of being fair, or free from bias or injustice; evenhandedness. Everyone had a chance to shine. Equal opportunity in the face of different. To be different meant you were embraced. By being embraced you had the chance to share your story, try new things and be supported along the way. Not everyone is lucky enough to be treated with an unbiased fairness. Those who are, do not take it for granted – they pass it forward to share in the feeling.
- Compassion –a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering. No one was more different than Gonzo. His choices and passions made others look at him as if he was weird. The Muppets held great compassion for him and embraced his flashy differences. They supported his need to discover his roots, they understood his need for a hen party. They gave him undying support because it leads back to Loyalty, Fairness, Respect and Dignity. We should all be so lucky.
- Kindness – indulgent, considerate, or helpful; humane. What kind of world would we live in if everyone was kind? Kind without judgement. This is the difficult aspect – without judgement. I choose to live my life surrounded my kind and compassionate people. That is not to say my world isn’t filled with the opposite, because there are plenty of people who are just mean for the sake of being mean. I have been mean, I have been the recipient of mean. Neither is preferable. It’s hard to embrace your friends when they judge or say mean things – that is human nature. Choosing to be with someone, yet their actions are mean to helpless creatures, be it animals, children or people who are different. Over looking these qualities is a must, however I struggle with the judging part. It’s easy to cut off people because they offend you, hurt children or discriminate against others. But what would Kermit do? He would tell them he is uncomfortable with their actions, love them more and hope they mend their ways. Yet sometimes we must choose to protect the innocent and defenseless. Fight for what is right all the while keeping in mind where these people are coming from. Using Empathy in the highest order – to understand the why.
Meanwhile, Chick-fil-a is choosing a stance of “traditional family” and “the biblical definition of the family unit.” Once again people, this is where you need to do your research instead of judging or making assumptions. “The biblical definition of the family unit” could possible mean multiple wives, lack of women’s rights and not necessarily the respect that can be defined by society today.
Times change. I for one am happy with the way society now considers me a person under the law. 100 years ago, this was not the case in Canada. Change can be great. The United States of America has a black man as President. Did you think that could happen 100 years ago? Alberta and British Columbia have Women Premier’s running the province. In fact, the leader of the opposition in Alberta is also a female. So much for the “old boys club”. Why is it that these minorities have made such head way and the LGBT are not even considered for human rights? Sally Ride, the first American female astronaut died from cancer last week. It came out that she was in a lesbian relationship for 27 years. Yet her partner will not receive any benefits because of what some people deem as disgusting behaviour. Really? I am not interested in what straight couples do in their bedroom either. Yet does anyone dispute the the work Ride did as important? Not until it was discovered that she was a lesbian. What you do and who you are are not the same as what you like to do and who you like to do it with. That is called PRIVACY. You deserve privacy. I am sure there are somethings you do in the privacy of your own home that you would not like your place of employment finding out about. Does that change the work you do? Does that define who you are and how you treat other humans? No. Or at least it shouldn’t.
I have had the privilege of working with some members of the LGBT community. They know their job, work tirelessly for the common goal. I have worked with people who are mean and judgemental, who have a sense of entitlement because they appear to be sanctimonious. This attitude interferes with their job. They are too busy making sure everyone knows how they feel about situations, how they are judging situations and how they see themselves as in the right every time – it actually brings down their level of effectiveness in the work place.
You don’t have to agree with or even like other people’s choices. Just be kind.When people are kind to each other and work towards a common goal, mountains can be moved.
Lets try that for a change… be kind, and sit back and watch the world change.
That is why I follow the Tao of The Muppets. Thank you Jim Henson Company for taking a stand and doing the right thing.