Snoopy and the snowman

For what is a man profited, if he should gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
Matthew 16:26

This story is about Snoopy, the beagle in the Peanuts cartoon. In case you aren’t familiar with Peanuts, it’s about the lives of a group of young children, maybe six or seven years old. Snoopy is the main character’s dog, although he has as much personality and imagination as any of the children.

There’s one cartoon from the 1970s that I remember well. The children had built a snowman, complete with carrot nose, coal eyes and a neck scarf. After the children go indoors, Snoopy is seen dancing around the snowman, playing and having a wonderful time with his new friend.

The next morning, the sun is out bright and early. Snoopy goes to play with his new friend but finds only the scarf, carrot and coal on the ground; the snowman had melted. Snoopy walks away, head down, obviously saddened by the loss of his new playmate. The caption was something like, “Not all relationships were meant to last.”

It’s easy to empathize with Snoopy. We’ve all had relationships that ended before we were ready for them to finish. But there’s a much deeper message in this little cartoon.

Stop for a minute and think about all the things in life that you treasure. Think of the time, energy and emotion you’ve invested in the material things in life. Then realize that all those material things will meet the same fate as the snowman. All material things will eventually cease to be.

You really do need to take a few minutes to contemplate the temporary status of physical things. We tend to invest a disproportionate amount of our time and energy in things that will one day meet the fate of that snowman. When the material things we treasure so much melt away, what will we be left with?

I certainly don’t advocate a life deprived of any material pleasures. On the other hand, I know that most of us invest too much in possessions and too little in ourselves.

Don’t spend all your time accumulating treasures outside yourself. True wealth is found on the inside. If you rely on external things for your sense of well being, you’ll always be like Snoopy in the cartoon: one day happy, the next sad and dejected. But if you develop inner worth and peace, no one can ever take it away.

Vigilantly practice indifference to external conditions. Your happiness can only be found within.
Epictetus
55 – 135 A.D.

Copyright © 2019 John Chancellor


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