Tuesday, January 06, 2015

No Mental Majority

Pen and Ink sketch © Jay Johnson - 2011
I believe Mid-century Warner Brothers animated cartoons to be metaphors for life. Tex Avery, Chuck Jones and Robert McKimson are the prophets of a philosophy I like to call,  LooneyToonism. There is no church of Toonism but if there was I would probably attend.
My high school and early college afternoons were spent watching local television stations fill time with vintage Warner Brothers Cartoons.  They were vintage then, they are ancient history now. To some this might seem like a waste of study time.  But those cartoons taught me some important lessons in life.
Although cartoon characters are not bound by the laws of physics these acts are not considered miracles.  In most cases the law of physics are voided by ignorance.  If a cartoon character does not know he has run off the edge of a cliff, he will remain suspended in air until the realization that he is floating is totally comprehended.  Depending on the character it may take looking at the camera with a double take of fear and the disgust  before gravity acts. At this point the cartoon character will fall.
This taught me the metaphysics of mental mind practice.  As long as I do not contemplate the reality of negativity I will remain unaffected by it.  More later on that chestnut.  
Another Toonism Tennant is how decisions are made.  Unseen, except to the person struggling with a decision, is a devil sitting on one shoulder and an angel on the other.  Each miniature cartoon argues for their way of dealing with the situation, whispering in each of the "decider's" ears.  Although the devil will attempt violence and humiliation to win, the angel only has the most righteous of motives.  
This taught me that the struggle between good and evil is not always a fair fight.  The devil wears a brighter color and speaks with more  street wisdom than the pale and profane angel.  Doing the wrong thing is usually more attractive, less risky and certainly seems like more fun.  In Toonism however, it is a 50/50 choice, with clearly different and distinctive paths.  
Because of what I do for a living there are more voices involved in my decisions than just good and evil.  For me there is a committee of voices each expressing a different opinion on the situation.   None of them professes to be good nor evil.  None is dressed in a white gown and halo and none is dressed in a red suit with horns.  Any one of them can express the highest or lowest values of outcome, and they can change positions with each new decision.  It makes the reality of these decisions much more difficult than Toonism teaches in this metaphor.
I suspect this is the way with most people. It would be a lot easier if decisions were just an matter of good and evil and we could clearly distinguish the two.  For me I have to listen to all the voices plead their cases and find a path.  It is also not a matter of taking a vote and the majority wins; it is a matter of coming to the best compromise. I am the one listening to this distraction.  I am the decider and the only one who will suffer the consequences or gain the benefit from the choice.  
But like all philosophies perhaps Toonism lessons do not stand alone.  It would be like taking one passage from the Bible or Koran or Book of Mormon and expect that to be all you need.  The lessons are interactive, cross-connected and must be taken as a total teaching not a random lesson.
Perhaps finding yourself at a point of decision in also like finding yourself standing off the edge of a cliff in Toonism.  The moment we start to contemplate the negative,  other forces take over... like gravity does. The trick would be to sort out the negative feelings and give them no reality.  If you are holding to the positive then it doesn't matter how many forms the negative takes nor how loud they yell.  
A child was asked by her Grandmother to weed the tomato plants.  "But" the child said, "there are so many kinds of weeds I won't know them all."  The Grandmother said, "All you need to know is what a tomato plant looks like and pull out all the others."
The Grandmother I am sure was a devout LooneyToonist.  
"Thu thee tha thi...the tha.... that's all folks"
As you were,


John Hardman said...
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John Hardman said...

Dad Gum It, Jay, I didn't think anyone else had figured out this correlation, parallel, or what ever. As a kid at the movies in the 40's, the decision to get up and head for the popcorn machine in the lobby came at cartoon time. If it was Warner Bros. I waited until the Movietone News. If it wasn't, off I would go...(.however I admit I was intrigued with the George Pal "Puppetoons" on occasion). Back in the early 70's when I was living in Hollywood and working for Mark Wilson, June Foray hosted Sunday Afternoon little get togethers at her house each week, All the voice talent and animation folks from the studios got together for lunch. I was invited because I had just finished a trade show presentation for Mark Wilson with June and myself doing the voices. She was still working on the Bullwinkle Show with Jay Ward and that was a favorite show of mine. I was in awe when she walked in the studio, and we had a great time and lots of laughs doing the recording. During my 6 or 7 Sunday visits I met all the great animators from Warners and Disney and had some memorable conversations with them all. "Cartoon Philosophy" was a big topic. You have come very close to voicing their thinking. Tex and Chuck would have loved you......and talked your ear off.