G. K. Chesterton once wrote, “It is the test of a good religion whether you can joke about it.” If one can say with confidence that those on the extreme ends of the political and religious spectrum””left or right””are not known for their senses of humor, Henson surely must have been on to something. Where others found potential bitterness, he found the thread of human foibles; his lighthearted irreverence was as universal as the appeal of his characters.
Henson may have preached self-belief, but all his stories find people desperately in need of (and finding!) help from others. Despite the sometimes insufferable can’t-we-all-just-get-along aspect of Sesame Street (and let’s face it, Fraggle Rock) much of Henson’s work dealt more seriously with human suffering, both self-inflicted and otherwise. The Dark Crystal (1982) is nothing if not a parable of Fall and Redemption, and Labyrinth (1986) has a distinctly Pilgrim’s Progress-like, um, progression. Henson may have believed with all his heart in a “positive view of life,” but his work reflects a larger truth.
Indeed, Henson understood that to truly reach another person, you must aim beyond the intellect, at the heart””at the unguarded, joyful corner of the soul known as the inner child, which, incidentally, is where Jesus was especially focused.