Dr Seuss and the Meaning of Life

I do not recall reading Dr Seuss as a child, nor do I recall ever reading him until most recently. I saw The Cat in the Hat at the cinema (woah, weird) but that’s it – that’s my experience with Dr Seuss. Perhaps he was read to me somewhere along the way but it is in the past six months that I’ve actually read Dr Seuss.

What? You’re studying Children’s Literature and you’ve never before read Dr Seuss?!

Nope, never.

For Christmas just past I bought my friend’s son The Lorax and most recently Oh! The Places You’ll Go! (or maybe it was the other way around) … Dr Seuss is, after all, a classic in the world of Children’s Literature so I didn’t really think much of it when I bought them. The Lorax is familiar to me in the academic sense and is often referred to when I come across mentions of environmentalism and children’s books so I kind of knew the story. But it was the latter that I was asked to read aloud and, being the perfect Aunt that I am, I obliged.

Oh! The Places You’ll Go! left me dumbfounded. I bought it because I thought that it was the perfect gift for a kid with a nomadic Aunt who sent him postcards from abroad before he could even walk. Of course, when I actually read the book I realised it was probably more reflective of me – my emotions, my life – than any other book I’ve purchased for myself or for anyone else.

Have you read it?

Really read it?

Oh! The Places You’ll Go!

You’ll be on your way up!
You’ll be seeing great sights!
You’ll join the high fliers who soar to high heights.

You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed. You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead. Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best. Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

Except when you don’t.
Because, sometimes, you won’t.

Yes Dr Seuss, sometimes, you won’t. I could not believe the feelings that shot through me when I read these words aloud. I mean, I read The Red Tree and immediately felt a connection to the melancholy in the images and words … But I read Oh! The Places You’ll Go! and felt that never before have I seen the highs and lows I so often feel right there on the page before me.

How can words have such an effect? How can you read something and feel every voice inside you scream YES! That’s IT!

You will come to a place where the streets are not marked. Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked. A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin! Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in? How much can you lose? How much can you win?

How do you do it? How do you articulate the exact feeling another person has? Or are we not as alone as we think? Do we all think and feel the same thing and not realise that we are far from isolated? Perhaps the meaning of life is to realise that you’re not alone, you’re not the only one, there are people in this world who understand you more than you ever thought possible.

And so, at the age of twenty something, I’m discovering Dr Seuss. And maybe twenty years ago I would not have realised what I realise now: books give meaning to my life.

Kid, you’ll move mountains!
So…be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray or Mordecai Ale Van Allen O’Shea, you’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!

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2 comments on “Dr Seuss and the Meaning of Life

  1. My principal read to us “Oh! The Places You’ll Go” when we graduated, and I do not think that he could have chosen a better speech.

    I’m glad you have discovered Dr Seuss. Better late than never!

    I, myself, have recently bought a collection of his books, both so that I can read it to my niece when she’s older, and also because… Well, he’s just awesome, and I do love having a box of his work at my fingertips – my “Seusscase”, if you will.

    “Oh! The Places You’ll Go” is brilliant, but I also greatly enjoyed “The Cat In The Hat On Aging”, Dr Seuss’s response to a remark that it was time he “grew up”.

    Enjoy: 😉

    I cannot see,
    I cannot pee.
    I cannot chew,
    I cannot screw.
    Oh my god, what can I do?

    My memory shrinks.
    My hearing stinks.
    No sense of smell.
    I look like hell.
    My mood is bad–can you tell?

    My body’s drooping,
    Have trouble pooping.
    The Golden Years
    have come at last.
    The Golden Years
    can kiss my ass!

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