First of all, if you have not seen the new Muppet Movie you are missing out; it’s worth a view for all ages!
An existential crisis within the Muppets? Hard to believe, but one of the songs in the new movie is a back-and-forth between Gary (Jason Segel) and his “brother” Walter. They reach a point in their relationship where the tension is beginning to mount and they will need to choose whether they will continue in this somewhat exclusive relationship or break away from one another so that their other relationships can flourish. Their identity is so tied in with one another (Segel’s character more so than the muppet) that it seems impossible to consider them going in different directions. However, as the story goes on, it becomes more and more evident that Walter is finding his home with the other muppets and no longer “needs” Gary for survival, and as a matter of fact, seems to flourish in separation with the others who are “like” him. It is much more difficult for Gary who has had to help and raise Walter, cared for him, made decisions and included him, and is now beginning to feel the loss of a piece of his identity.
No, we don’t face the same dilemma typically in our lives, between being a muppet or a man, but we do when we start doing the challenging “inner work” of the soul, when we are confronted by all the children of our past who are in need of our attention and healing. It leads to an existential crisis for anyone who is willing to do this work, since our identity tends to be tied up in our past, the environment in which we were raised, our peers, etc and for many, that is not always a positive experience. When we do finally make that leap in dealing with these inner children, like Gary, we begin to feel loss and anger, struggle with grief, for we know nothing else and yet feel called to something new, a true identity, an identity rooted in the true self, rather than the shadow that tends to follow us wherever we go. It is a call to growth, maturity, and adulthood. Unless we are willing to confront this shadow, and at times separate ourselves from it, it will typically control our actions and relationships, and more times than not, not in a healthy way.
As a people of faith we are given the model in Christ who teaches us the way to a fuller humanity, who walks into the shadows with us to shed light upon the places we’d rather not go. A warning should be placed on the way though, that this will cause upheaval in one’s way of life and lead to suffering in reconciling with the past, with these inner children, and who it is God calls me to be. Although humorous in listening to the song and how it is portrayed, it is the reality for those who take the inner life seriously and desire fullness in becoming the man or woman God creates us to be.