I enjoy Dr. Seuss stories. They teach and entertain and have fun pictures. One of the Dr. Seuss books is entitled, Oh! The Places You’ll Go. It is about the usual little Seussian character who is ‘off and away’ on another adventure. He visits many places and, of course, is encouraged to ‘be great’ in his experiences in life. The character is predicted to find success and even fame. Wise Dr. Seuss celebrates all the possible wins and fame, even to have the world watching our hero on TV. Great.
Then our good doctor does something wonderful in that after the accolades and applause where he says all these fine things could happen, he adds, ‘except when they don’t (happen). Because, sometimes, they won’t’. Brilliant. Our young reader is introduced to the reality of the world. Sometimes we will not be the triumphant conquering hero. This is real life.
Seuss then takes the reader to the future with some care to predict that all will not be given or easy, but will still be available with conscious decisions such as ‘never mix up your right foot with your left’. Good advice, don’t you think?
In the finale he predicts success, 98 3/4 percent guaranteed and says, “kid, you’ll move mountains!”
The implication is that there comes a time when the success is virtually guaranteed. Oops. That could be a damaging and even dangerous idea. Life shows us that yes, great things can be and are, accomplished, and also, that not all endeavors, actually most endeavors, don’t make it.
If you have the book, grab a pencil and add ‘except when you won’t’ at the bottom of the second last page. If you don’t have it, get it, read it, edit it, and pass it along to anyone who seems to have forgotten those words of wisdom. It can actually be very encouraging in that it removes the self denigration that so many of us seem to generate. Missing one free shot at the basket is not some kind of proof that I am unworthy of success.
Joseph Seiler MCC