Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The dharma of the rubber duckie

Bought this Sesame Street video recently for my daughter entitled "Put Down the Duckie". It featured this great opening segment with all of the human and puppet characters dancing to a jazzy rendition of the Sesame Street theme song by Gladys Night and her band. Phil Donahue, star of the first tabloid talk show in America, interviews some popular figures and ended up being chased by the Count and Oscar the Grouch's gang who just couldn't get enough of saying their opinions on video. (By the way, did you know that NBC's corporate executives axed Phil's other show apparently because they didn't want it to become the sole voice of dissent during the early years of the Iraq war?) Bob does his famous segment "People in Your Neighborhood", with very special neighbors in the persons of Martina Navratilova, Barbara Walters, and Ralph Nader. Alistair Cookie, a.k.a. Cookie Monster, hosts the "Monster Theater" featuring fuzzy Grover in the eerie but funny "The Thirty-Nine Steps".

The main feature, however, and from where the said video got its title, is Ernie's musical number where an avian mentor and all these guests urge him to set aside his favorite toy so he could play the saxophone better. Celebrities including John Candy, Celia Cruz, Danny De Vito, Pee Wee Herman, Ladysmith Black Mombazo, Jeremy Irons, Wynton Marsalis, Paul Simon, Itzhak Perlman, and Pete Seeger had their cameo performances, dancing to the music or singing the chorus line "put down the duckie". Near the end of the song, Ernie finds out that releasing his rubber duckie doesn't mean everything is finished and goes to naught between him and his squeeky toy. There will always be an opportunity to pick it up and play with it again in the future. So, Ernie throws away the yellow duckie and concentrates on playing his saxophone (and man, the puppet sure knows how to play his sax!). Makes one think about how much energy we're putting into holding on to our attachments. Letting go, like putting down the duckie, should not look too frightening or daunting once we realize that the act is not supposed to banish desires, but is meant to reclaim useful energies that we invest into them.

The Put Down the Duckie video has other interesting segments. Check out James Taylor's cute number with some of the Sesame Street kids, Pattie Labelle's song "I Miss My X", and Hugh Down's (co-host of ABC's 20/20) investigation of the cookie jar caper by you know who. My other favorite segment is the animated musicale on the alligator king and his search for an heir among his seven kids. But it's a topic for another dharma post.

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