Coping with success
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?
Charles Schulz is not alone among artists. The same, great sensitivity which makes it possible to apprehend stark insights and express them poignantly is the cause of anxiety, insecurity, and overwhelming attention to the minute details of life.
Charles Schulz was a genius and the world is richer for his acute vulnerability. Hence his recognition by insitutions as diverse as the U.S. Congress -- in 2001 he received the Congressional Gold Medal posthumously -- and the Louvre, which featured the exhibit "Snoopy in Fashion" in 1990.
Vulnerability is a trait all great artists share. As a result they must walk the fine line between dedicating their energy to expression and losing it to their own suffering. I am grateful whenever they succeed in enriching the world as Schultz did, consistently and systematically for so many years.
Did success color his self-image? Most assuredly ... but how, we may never know. Schulz's success was irrefutable and obvious. Yet, how he interpreted it and what dynamic it achieved inside his psyche was as individual as a fingerprint.
We can rely today on expert biographers like M. Thomas Inge (Charles M. Schulz: Conversations, 2000, and My Life with Charlie Brown, 2010, editor in both cases) and the conversations with close family members to help us understand a great mind, but only the owner knows the terrain traversed.
And so it is with each of us. How we deal with success is up to us. We know it tends to magnify both frailties and character. When we are lucky enough to be embraced by fame, fortune, admiration and respect simultaneously, we can do our level best to see that we serve others and hope for the best.
This is what Schulz did, and he succeeded.
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