You don’t want to get mixed up with a guy like me. I’m a loner, Dottie. A rebel. ~from “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure”
You might not know this, and I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, but Pee-wee’s Big Adventure is one of my favorite films. I’ll give you a minute to stop laughing and wipe the spit from your monitor, then I’ll continue. Fair enough?
Over the years I’ve watched this movie countless times. What kept me coming back? Was it the Tim Burton kitschy-scary vibe? Large Marge? The dinosaur dream sequence? It’s hard to say. I know the whole thing by heart and I’m actually going to a convention for the flick in September. The more I think about it, the more I realize I actually learned important life lessons watching Pee-wee in pursuit of his beloved bike.
Again, I’d like to pause for a moment of reflection and laughter suppression. Ahem.
Sure, the movie isn’t Citizen Kane or The Godfather or even the original Star Wars trilogy. It’s cheesy and low-budget and it doesn’t care. What the hell have I learned from 25-plus years watching a crazy man-child in a gray suit running all over America?
Never lose touch with your sense of wonder. The happiest people I know, no matter their station in life, all have this trait (see also under “H.M. Murdock.”) It’s also called “inner child” and most people lose it by a certain age. Go to the zoo. Go to a toy store. Ride the merry-go-round. If you feel too weird doing this, lasso a child into coming with you. You may have more fun than the kid.
Peer pressure? What peer pressure? There’s only one you. If you like wearing feather boas or listening to Yanni, by all means, do it if it makes you happy. We spend most of our lives trying to fit into a niche defined by nebulous forces such as “the media” or “society.” As long as you’re not being lewd or violating some law, let that freak flag fly, baby.
Play the “Yes Game” and see what happens. Instead of saying “no” to everything automatically, try saying “yes” once in a while. A whole set of unexpected possibilities may open up for you. I’m not suggesting you have to invite the local Jehovah’s Witnesses in to tea or subscribe to every magazine, but start small. Try the popular improv game “Yes, and…” with a friend.
Fear nothing…except maybe clowns. Everyone is deathly afraid of something. It’s all right to have these fears. If we were completely without fear, we would lack a sense of urgency and thus, ourselves. (Who knew Pee-wee was an Existentialist?) I, like Pee-wee, am extremely coulrophobic.
If you have a dream, go for it. Remember the infamous “Big Butt” scene in the movie? If you don’t, Pee-wee encourages Simone, erstwhile truck-stop waitress, to chase her dream of living in Paris. Guess what? She eventually does, because she had the courage to take that leap of faith.
Verbal self-defense is often stronger than brawn. “I know you are, but what am I?” Next time you’re in a stressful situation, try using a bit of humor, especially self-deprecating humor, to diffuse tension. If you can get someone to laugh, there’s half the battle.
Know what you’re willing to fight for. Maybe it’s your faith. Maybe it’s an idea, a philosophy. Or, just maybe, it’s a tricked-out Schwinn bicycle. It is said that we haven’t yet begun to live unless we have found something (or someone) to fight for. Just don’t go chasing your unctuous neighbors in their swimming pool when you think they’ve stolen your property.
Have fun! Life is taken way too seriously. Laugh (especially at yourself.) Be silly. People who laugh a lot stay younger, you know.
And remember…there is NO basement at the Alamo. I can attest to this.
What advice do you have for life’s Big Adventures? What lessons have your favorite guilty pleasure movies taught you?