Saturday, January 2, 2010

Life Lessons from Dr. Seuss


I've read hundreds of books to my kids. Some books I feel like I've read hundreds of times. One of my favorite books is "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" by Dr. Seuss. I would rank this book in his top three, right up there with "The Cat in the Hat" and "Green Eggs and Ham". It was the last book he wrote before he died, being published in 1990. And it is unlike many of his previous books.

"Oh, the Places You'll Go!" is a book about life and the choices we make. Here he returns to basic story storytelling. It forsakes almost all the gibberish that marred his later publications, which depended heavily on make believe words strictly for the purpose of forming a nonsensical rhyme, like "Gox" or "Yink" or "Gack" (All from "one fish two fish red fish blue fish" one of my least favorite Dr. Seuss books) From the very beginning it doesn't read like a children's book. Mature messages include passages like

"You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.

You can steer yourself

any direction you choose.
You're on your own. And you know what you know.

And YOU are the guy who'll decide where to go
."


The book appears to foretell the travails of celebrity and warns of hubris and conceit.

"Oh, the places you'll go! There is fun to be done!
There are points to be scored. There are games to be won.
And the magical things you can do with that ball
will make you the winning-est winner of all.
Fame! You'll be famous as famous can be,
with the whole wide world watching you win on TV."

I used to think that page was about Michael Jordan, especially since 1990 was about the time when Jordan was at his peak. The illustration that goes with that page also shows a boy kicking a ball toward a distant basket. But now, I think the page is more appropriately about Tiger Woods. Because the very next page has this:

"Except when they don't.
Because, sometimes, they won't.
I'm afraid that some times
you'll play lonely games too.
Games you can't win
'cause you'll play against you."

Deep huh? Definitely not your typical elementary school book. This book has lessons that everyone can learn from. So as we start out a new year and new decade, pick up a copy of this book from the bookstore or library. Read what Dr. Seuss says about life, it's triumphs and challenges. And I'll close with a hopeful message from the end of the book:

"And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)
KID, YOU'LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!"

Have a happy and prosperous new year (with or without health care reform).

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