I am afraid of everything.
Dogs. Earthquakes. Flying. Family.
I am also a whiner. A whiner who needs to control his surroundings.
That means that everything needs to be just the way I like it, especially when it comes to writing the strip.
The drapes have to be closed. The right music has to be on my iPod. The little Kleenex that sticks up from the top of the box cannot be sticking up from the top of the box (I tuck it back in). And if my boxers are too tight, I will change them.
These two bad character traits merge in unholy ways when I fly.
First off, I don’t want to die. Secondly, everything is out of my control and all of it bothers me. The cramped seat. The idiot in front of me who made it cramped. The fat idiot next to me who spills over the armrest.
I am reminded of all this because on Wednesday, I’m flying to Comic-Con in San Diego, where I have to speak.
But I am also reminded of what I lack in the way of courage and grace because on Saturday, I will be on a panel with Richard Thompson, the creator of the comic strip Cul De Sac.
Richard is probably the most talented all-around syndicated cartoonist working today. And he is the only syndicated cartoonist I know of to receive an endorsement from the legendary (and reclusive) comic strip creator, Bill Watterson, who popped briefly out of hiding to write of Richard’s work: “Richard Thompson’s Cul de Sac has it all: intelligence, gentle humor, a delightful way with words, and, most surprising of all, wonderful, wonderful drawings..”
Richard announced this week that he has Parkinson’s.
In his blog entry, Richard does not complain. Nor does he show self-pity.
Instead, Richard jokes about it.
Jokes about the problems it could create for his chainsaw-juggling act. Jokes about the possible benefits. Jokes that he will have a good excuse for missing deadlines.
Now there’s a reaction for you.
You know, I think as children we are taught that courage is John Wayne courage. It is loud and it is brash and it wears boots.
But that’s not courage.
Courage is being diagnosed with Parkinson’s and writing chainsaw-juggling jokes about it.
And Richard’s discussion of his diagnosis is, at least to me, a reminder that while life may be unpredictable and unfair, its greatest beauty is in the capacity of the individual to stare into the face of that difficulty and smile.
And make chainsaw jokes.
So this is for Richard.
If the coward and whiner that is me can one day face adversity with a tenth of what Richard has shown, I know I will have done something right.