Monday, November 14, 2011

Unlimited Potential

Everybody loves babies.  Their big eyes and pudgy cheeks are irresistible to anybody who has a heart.  No matter the species, we find all babies to be adorable, pure, and innocent.

But most of all, we like them because they are new.  Out of nothingness, a new life is created and introduced into the world.  They lack any experiences, have yet to form memories, and are uncorrupted by the evils of the universe.  Although virtually identical upon exiting the womb, each baby will grow into a unique, fully-realized person depending on the different paths they will encounter.

No baby can choose what life they will be born into and by the time their brains are developed enough to form rational thoughts, many of their life's choices have already been made for them.  Their environment, culture and family have already begun their waves of influence over the infants.  As adults progress through their lives, they can be startled to find themselves where they are, especially since all events leading up to the present were based on choices made earlier in life.  The domino effect becomes very clear when looked at in reverse.

Take a person in your life that you care deeply about.  A friend, a partner, a lover, anyone.  Think about what circumstances led to you meeting that person.  Now imagine if that day, that moment you met them had gone differently.  Maybe if you had woken up late that day, or you were distracted by another event, or you just happened to blink and miss it when that person walked by.  You would be leading a quite different life thanks to one missed encounter.

And how about the opposite?  Suppose you had met this person sooner?  They have such an important impact on your life at the moment, would they have been as important had they been there from Day One?  This is a possibility that Miss Piggy considers after reconciling with her beloved Kermit after an argument.  In The Muppets Take Manhattan, Piggy imagines a world in which she and Kermit had known each other as babies, and she sets the stage for a world of infinite possibilities.

She believes that no matter the timeline or universe, she would have been committed in her love to Kermit.  But she does not stop at bringing the frog into her past.  The rest of their friends join them in restarting their lives.

The world's best nursery

As Baby Piggy sings about her affection, she also lists the many accomplishments she hopes to complete in her lifetime.  These range from the mundane (driving a car) to the plausible (learning to scuba dive) to the highly improbable (becoming a beautiful movie star veterinarian pilot who practices neurosurgery and has climbed the Matterhorn).  She may be naive, but she is only a baby.  To her, all of these things are equally complex and manageable.  And who is to say she's wrong?

Although we now know the life Piggy grew into, who says she could not have completed one or more (or all) of the goals on her list?

This is the question that spawned a cultural revolution for the offspring of the Baby Boomers.  Those children who were a part of Generation Y were the target audience of a new Henson production.  A cartoon based on the popularity of the infant Muppets presented in this one movie scene.  Muppet Babies was the first of its kind, taking pre-existing characters and presenting them as toddler versions of themselves to appeal to the younger generation.  While copycats came and went with varying degrees of success, what made Henson the pioneer was that his babies served a purpose.

Besides being so gosh darn cute!

These characters were not simply money-making opportunities based on brand recognition.  They also stood for a poetic and inspirational cause.  If there was one type of person Henson admired, it was the dreamer.  The creative mind who looked beyond themselves to see a greater life ahead.  People who wanted to be happy and to make others happy.  At a basic level, all dreamers need is an idea and the imagination to make that idea work.

As babies, the Muppets did not have much at their disposal.  They were confined to one room without much to keep them busy.  But they had their imaginations.  They encouraged the children at home to use their imaginations to do great things.  Thanks to them, our generation became the generation of dreamers.

Dreamers with big hearts and bigger eyes

And so, for the rest of this week, we shall return to that magical nursery for a deeper look at those lovable rugrats who could envision entire universes before naptime, the Muppet Babies.

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