Jan Scruggs
Memorial founder

Jan Scruggs

Founder and president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.

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A vital balance

Q: A new collection of Charles Schulz's writings shows that the creator of "Peanuts" was always insecure, even as he drew and wrote the world's most beloved comic strip. How much does success color one's self-image? Does a job well done necessarily bring satisfaction?

Lets not draw, as an initial issue, a neat statistical correlation between success and mental health/ happiness. Many rich and powerful males and females take their lives or make wrecks of them. Where artists are concerned, there are sometimes other complications. An artist's sensitivities are keener than most people's are and some pay a profound price in their personal lives.

The famed Vincent Van Gogh mailed his earlobe to a highly unimpressed and flabbergasted female, according to most accounts. Charles Schulz was merely insecure.

Yes, Schulz missed much of the joy of life through a distressed state of mind. Yet perhaps this state of mind brought about the brilliant dialogue between characters like Linus and Lucy as they played out the inner conflicts of his insecurities. If Schulz was the alpha male, excelling in all sports and ruggedly handsome, would he have been able to create his daily contribution to our culture?

Dr. Karl Meninnger was the American most credited to bringing modern psychiatry to the U.S. His book "The Vital Balance" is still in print. He is noted for his work in mental illness, but, importantly, he had deep thoughts about mental health as well.

Menninger pointed out that we each need to strive for a vital balance between involvement with family, work and community. These are words for the wise. He also noted that "Unrest of spirit is the mark or life." Schulz, perhaps, had a dose of this unrest of spirit, which affects many high achievers.

A healthy self image does require success of some sort. Success at owning a business, becoming a leader in the military, selling computers, driving an 18-wheeler across the nation or the important task of raising children are examples of activities that impact on our self image. We all need some feeling of competence. We need to be good -- not the best, but good at a few things.

Maybe we should turn to Charlie Brown himself for ideas on what is important. Now I remember what he said: " Happiness is a warm puppy". The small pleasures of life are worth savoring when they come our way.

To live a balanced and successful life takes dedication and tenacity. Life is hard work. Our thanks to Charles Schulz and Charlie Brown for their profound words and humor.

By Jan Scruggs  |  April 29, 2010; 7:47 PM ET  | Category:  Success and happiness Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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The Peanuts comic strip and tv special have never appealed to me and all my life I have failed utterly to see the supposed genius in the work. I guess I am unsuccessful.

Posted by: leilaash | May 3, 2010 9:01 PM
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