My Patron: St. Opus of Bloom County

Living in Iowa during the '80's, there were more exciting things than corn and pigs: Bloom County. Drawn by Berkeley Breathed out of Iowa City, Bloom County offered a unique perspective on America, politics, and social trends through the eyes of Small Town America. Talking animals, a kid with a real anxiety closet, a womanizing lawyer, a cat that says "Ack!" instead of "Meow," and the last basselope (a hybrid between a basset hound and an antelope) earned Breathed a Pulitzer and a host of loyal readers.

For most 9 year-olds, socio-political cartoons are glanced over for the more interesting strips: Garfield, Peanuts, or Hagar the Horrible. My childhood was somewhat different. I grew up watching the Democratic National Convention, hearing about local referendums, attending presidential events by John Glenn, Walter Mondale, and Paul Simon (the senator, not the musician), and seeing my mom on TV as she spoke out against Reaganomics. When the governor knows your mom on a first name basis, you tend to grow up knowing more about the world. When I got home from school, Bloom County was the first thing I looked for in the newspaper.

OK, so I was kinda a weird kid.

The character I related to the most was Opus the Penguin. A naive and gullible creature, Opus represented the innocence that exists in all of us. Whether Opus was buying the new Ronco Salad Shooter or being assaulted by Hare Krishna's, Opus represents that wonderfully pure ignorance that we all have; an openness to any and everything. As we grow older, we become numb to things that happen around us. I like that no matter what, Opus kept his youthful optimism...a trait that often got him into trouble.

By the time Breathed stopped writing Bloom County, we had already moved to Michigan. Soon after, he would re-release Opus, Bill the Cat, and some of the forgotten friends in a new Sunday strip called Outland. A surreal landscape for those that did not fit in the real world, Outland continued for several years. While it still featured Opus, it was not the same. As Bloom County ended, it was also the end of my childhood. I was becoming an adult, and much of my optimism had be wiped away. I eventually developed my own prejudices, pessimism, and even apathy of what was going on.

As I continue to grow, I realize that there's a need for that childish sense of wonderment and naivete. There are times in our life when we must let down our defenses and trust without condition. Sometimes...we just need have a little fun.

I've learned to look at life with a healthy sense of optimism once again. I believe in the goodness of God, and I have hope for the goodness of mankind. I don't have to change the world to make a difference, just change a life. Most importantly, as long as I know Opus hasn't lost that soft side that's made him so lovable, I know I can let my guard down and not be hardened to what's happening in the world.

He called a child over, placed it in their midst,
and said, "Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children,
you will not enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matt 18:2-3)

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