Paying Attention Bill McDonald’s
March 2023 - Volume 23, No. 3
The Sunday Comics
It’s Sunday morning, February 26, 2023. Like clockwork, I feed my cat, make coffee - then next I’ll retrieve the Sunday Flint Journal from my front porch. I remove it from its plastic wrapper (protecting it from Michigan weather), and disengage the Comics section. Then I’ll sit down to read my three favorites, Doonesbury, Dilbert, and Prince Valiant.
From that ritual alone, you can pretty well discern my personality. Doonesbury because my personal politics tend toward progressive, and I enjoy good satire. Dilbert because I’m a businessman and again I enjoy the business world being lampooned, and Prince Valiant…
I’ve long enjoyed this comic strip, in part because it so richly examples a storytelling art. Each panel so effectively moves the storyline forward.
Then too I’m an old Celt myself, (maybe you can tell by my name), and the Arthurian legends have long been interwoven within my own DNA.
But this Sunday morning, something unusual captured my imagination in Prince Valiant. What was it?
I hadn’t really noticed him before. He is a regent of Camelot - a high office. And he travels long now to a lonely monastery, where his old friend, the aged King Arthur, lives in secluded retirement.
Arn is troubled - and he has sought out his old friend and mentor - as the cartoon speaks:
So Arn is given leave by the man he admires most to pour out his fears that he has lost his way as a ruler - he no longer trusts his advisers, or his own decisions - he has made terrible mistakes.
Arthur responds, and in this segment, he ends with these words:
“I remember you as an adventurous wanderer - maybe it is time to revisit that youthful version of yourself.”
Response #1 - for me
I felt right away that this was meant for me as well. It pierced my aging heart, in a way I have yet to understand.
Response #2 -
‘Prince Valiant’ was introducing a new chapter in one of my favorite comic strips - and I looked forward to a good ride.
Response #3 - the mass shooting at Michigan State University !
Later as I read farther in this same Sunday Flint Journal - the Opinion section - there was a powerful Letter From the Editor - John Hiner, titled
Why do we lack the will to address mass murder head on?
He begins with his daughter, a student at Michigan State University, physically safe, but “struggling to process the trauma and reorder what she knew of the sense of security and logic in her world.”
WE ARE ALL PRINCE ARN
Yes, it’s Sunday morning, February 26, 2023. Thirteen days after the Michigan State savage event. And after twenty four years of other mass shootings, murder, especially in schools, where our children are. We all need to look at ourselves, repent and find a way to somehow change course - and now take action.
An American comic strip created by Hal Foster in 1937. It is an epic adventure that has told a continuous story during its entire history, and the full stretch of that story now totals more than 4000 Sunday strips. - Wikipedia
So clearly the opposite of that miserable Internet storytelling technique, where one is caught up in a story hook, and then led ad nauseam through a thousand “next”s elongating each mini-ounce of the story, often to such a banal conclusion that I know too soon my waning interest is being used just as a framework for dozens of ads.
Listen - the faint echo of a man’s voice years ago
“When will we ever learn?” (Pete Seeger 1955)