Saturday, January 24, 2009

Cartoon Spirituality

So – I am on the treadmill in my living room this morning running and my youngest son is watching a cartoon; Courage the Cowardly Dog on the Cartoon Network. For those of you who do not have kids or watch cartoons on a regular basis (Dan) you might not be able to follow most of this blog. (Look it up, watch an episode or two…) As I am watching this cartoon, I came to a realization that there may be a spiritual interpretation to the main theme of the cartoon. So, here we go!

The premise of the cartoon is that of an old couple (Muriel and Eustis) and their dog (Courage) living in the middle of a desolate area called Nowhere, USA. In every episode this group experiences a life threatening challenge presented by some supernatural or mythological being or force. Also in every episode, Courage the dog comes out the hero thus saving the day and living up to his name.

Eustis is a grumpy, grouchy, greedy old man. He is portrayed as having no teeth and always complaining about something; especially the dog. If he can blame his poor judgment or the resulting predicament he got the group into on Courage, he will do it in a heart beat. Sometimes, when Courage does something right, Eustis grumbles, “Stupid dog”. Eustis is primarily motivated by his greed. And when he is in danger he will do anything to save his own skin, including selling out his wife, Muriel. Eustis represents our baser selves, only interested in wealth, success and comfort.

Muriel is the kind, patient partner of Eustis. She loves both Eustis and Courage unconditionally, but she does recognize Eustis’ shortcomings. Muriel always seems to see the bright side and is welcoming of some of the bizarre creatures that end up on their doorstep. Muriel and Courage are a pair and where Muriel is, Courage can be found right beside her. Muriel represents our better selves. She is open-heartedness, optimism, and kindness. She understands that the true value of life is life itself and not what you try to squeeze out of it.

Courage is the main character of the group. He is afraid of everything. Overly cautious of the strange and unknown, but at the same time sympathetic to beings who are in need of help or friends. And no matter what beastly situation threatens Muriel (and even Eustis), Courage always finds a way to resolve the problem – sometimes to the benefit of the group and the creatures mutually. It is interesting to note that where there are times that Courage does not know what steps to take in order to save Muriel, he consults a sarcastic computer which is in the attic. More on this later….

The setting for these dramas is the rickety farm house in the middle of “Nowhere”. Without getting into too much detail about the symbology, a house represents a person. Whenever you dream of being in a house which you are familiar with, it is a sub-conscious symbol for your Self. The basement is your sub-conscious, the attic is your higher consciousness, and the rooms in between are different aspects of you. The two human dwellers of the house are also representations of the person; Eustis is the baser Mind-centric aspect and Muriel is the higher Heart-conscious aspect. Courage is the spirit guide of the person. In many esoteric stories and symbols, animals (especially small dogs – see the Fool card of a traditional Tarot deck) are the spirit guides of humans. They are the connection between us and the hidden world of spirits and intuition/instinct. This is why he is bound to Muriel, the Heart. The Heart sees things that the Mind cannot perceive. Muriel is the gut-instinct while Eustis is the opportunist who asks himself, “how can this person/situation/being benefit me materially?” When Muriel is in trouble due to being too trusting of strangers or because Eustis’ greed drags her into danger, her spirit guide kicks in. Many of the episodes show Courage attempting to warn Muriel, but he cannot talk. He usually tries to communicate by changing his shape and/or pantomiming the threat. Like many of our guides, Courage attempts to reach Muriel and Eustis through symbols and abstract methods. Eustis fails to recognize what Courage is trying to say because he doesn’t want to ‘hear’ the message or because his greed blinds him. Muriel (the Heart) is the only one open to ‘listen’ to her guide. Although Muriel trusts her guide, there are times when she feels Courage is being overly cautious and she extends her friendship to a scammer and a fraud.

As I stated previously, there is a computer (PC) in the attic of the farm house. In the cartoon, it is extremely rare to see either Muriel or Eustis ‘accessing’ the computer in the attic (the higher consciousness). It is the spirit guide who does the ‘accessing’. So what does the computer represent? Among esoteric thought and new age philosophy there is a theory of a kind of storehouse or well of all knowledge commonly known as the Cosmic Consciousness or the Akashic Records (ala Mr. Edger Cayce). Usually only psychics and those initiated into the esoteric mysteries are said to be able to access this vast knowledge which contains all information from the past, present, future, and possibly the realm of the Spirits. Obviously, any spiritual guide would have access to it and this could explain some of our epiphanies throughout our lives; knowledge or inspiration from seemingly nowhere.

As all of this is going on in the ‘house’, each episode has an X-File style story-line. The house has been established to be a person, any person. The name of the local is Nowhere – in other words: no where in particular. The location does not matter and could be anywhere we happen to be. And the weird happenings are representative of those things in our life which we have no control over and may appear to happen with no reason. How many times things in our own lives have given us the feeling that there must be some supernatural force (god, satan, karma, fate, luck, cosmic will…) behind the incident?

I find this theory of mine interesting because the more I thought about all this (give me a break – I was on my treadmill for 38 minutes) I wondered if the creator or authors of the cartoon purposely embedded all this in a child’s show in order to imprint a spiritual “map” through the children’s psyches. A sub-conscious seed telling them to trust their Heart and Instincts in times of distress.

Maybe I am reading too much into this cartoon - - Maybe not….


Ben and Krystal said...

Wow, speedy, I have seen this cartoon lots of times, and never thought deep enough to realize this, but I think you might be onto something...makes me wonder about the spiritual implications of Spongebob!

Speedy said...

I have already discussed the symbolic aspects of Sponge Bob, Dexter's Laboratory, and even Kung Fu Panda in the past. I just never wrote about them. I think Courage is unique in that every episode is about anyone working any issue....

Dan said...

I think you're on to something here- though I defy you to find meaning in "Ed, Edd, and Eddy."