Lessons from literature: Paddington Bear
"Words, Caravaggio. They have power."
I loved Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient when I studied it at school. This snatched quote here is a perfect summary of how books and stories can contain lessons and meanings for us to take with us after reading.
This is rarely more true than when you think about the books we read as children. The lessons and morals there are neatly wrapped and packaged and shown off by characters we all know and love. There are some easy examples: Winnie the Pooh's "you are braver than you believe" sentiment or a multitude of things written by Dr Seuss for example.
But there is one beloved character who, I feel, gets overlooked in this regard. One creation who does not tell us how to live, but shows us. That character is Paddington Bear.
This hit me when I was recently reacquainted with Paddington by seeing the films starring Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins and Ben Whishaw.
So, in an attempt to rectify this, here are a few lessons I think we can take from the marmalade-loving Peruvian.
Be prepared "I always keep a marmalade sandwich under my hat, just in case!" Paddington gets himself into all sorts of scrapes but he is never found without his trusty marmalade sandwich which he keeps stashed under his hat.
Keep a journal "Paddington took his scrapbook very seriously and spent many long hours carefully pasting in pictures and writing up adventures." Life is all about experience and what is it worth if you cannot remember it?
Enjoy the ride "I think [the merry-go-round] is a very good way of travelling if you don't want to go anywhere." I am a big fan of 'Zen Dog' poem from Edward Monkton which concludes "it's not the destination it's the glory of the ride", sometimes half the fun can be in getting there. You're spending time on the journey so don't waste it.
Don't be afraid to question something "The Principal Boy is always a girl," agreed Judy. "It's traditional." "I don't see why," insisited Paddington. Just because something has always been that way doens't mean it is the right way.
Make a good impression "Young [Paddington] Brown has a way of bringing people closer together in the end." People will, as the old adage goes, always remember how you made them feel.
Stand up for what matters. "[Paddington] stands up for things, he’s not afraid of going straight to the top and giving them a hard stare." In an interview with The Guardian Paddington's creator Michael Bond said the two things he loves most about the character are his eternal optimism and his unwillingness to let wrongdoing pass. If a little bear can stand up for what is right, can't we all?
Embrace who you are "Things are always happening to me. I’m that sort of bear." When Paddington tells the Browns this soon after their first meeting they have no idea how much adventure the young bear will get up to. But the key, as Paddington sees it, is to embrace the joy of it rather than fight your true nature. As Paddington himself so succinctly put it: "I'll never be like other people, but that's alright, because I'm a bear."
Main image from Pixabay