I am a huge admirer of Jim Henson’s, and I want to share a quote of his which really speaks to me. It is excerpted from notes written in 1986 for an unpublished anthology “The Courage of Conviction”. I first read these notes in “Jim Henson: The Works (The Art, The Magic, The Imagination)”, published by Random House in 1993.
“At some point in my life I decided, rightly or wrongly, that there are many situations in this life that I can’t do much about—acts of terrorism, feelings of nationalistic prejudice, cold war, etc.—so what I should do is concentrate on the situations that my energy can affect.
I believe that we can use television and film to be an influence for good; that we can help to shape the thoughts of children and adults in a positive way. As it has turned out, I’m very proud of some of the work we’ve done, and I think we can do many more good things.
When I was young, my ambition was to be one of the people who made a difference in this world. My hope is still is to leave the world a little bit better for my having been here.
It’s a wonderful life and I love it.” Jim Henson, 1986.
My great admiration for Henson and the Muppets is often understood as a love of puppetry in general—but the truth is it’s much more specific (and non-puppet related) than that. I have an admiration for the incredible collaboration, teamwork and hard work that gave us early Sesame Street. And I have a special admiration for the spirit of the man who wrote those notes. He’s who I want to be when I grow up.
The influence of Henson, and Sesame Street, can sometimes be seen directly in my work (such as my plays written for children, or my educational videos), but it is always there, even (or perhaps especially!) when it isn’t obvious.
‘concentrate on the situations that my energy can affect’ is excellent advice, that can be applied to any project close to your heart:
▪ If you believe talented 91 year olds should have interesting work available to them, and not enough people seem to have gotten the memo, create that work yourself!
▪ If there are colleagues you want to work with, and the opportunities to do so aren’t falling into your lap, create that opportunity yourself!
There will always be difficulties, and harshness and unpleasantness in the world. There will always be things we can’t fix. But there is also always some opportunity to use our energy to make something better, something good.
“It’s a wonderful life. And I love it.”
Watch Rowlf the Dog (Henson) sing “What a Wonderful World” to a cocker spaniel puppy. (from season 2 of The Muppet Show)