- It's Not Easy Being Teal. Part 1. The Performer Behind the World’s Most Famous Frog Recounts Coming to an Integral View.
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The Muppet famous for saying "It’s not easy being green," carries on the creative tradition founded by Jim Henson in Steve Whitmire’s puppeteering of this international figure with a decidedly more Integral tilt.
Steve Whitmire is one of the few individuals who has carried on the whole-hearted legacy of Jim Henson, and the mastery and development of puppetry through Jim’s unique Muppets. Since the passing of Jim Henson in 1990, Steve has served as the animating force and puppeteer for beloved characters such as Kermit the Frog and Sesame Street’s Ernie.
Steve Whitmire spent 14 intense and creative years with the extraordinary Jim Henson before his passing. As of 2008, Steve has been the animating force behind, most notably, Kermit the Frog for nearly two decades. This was not something Steve planned for in any way. Jim passed away at the age of 53 from an infection that no one could have seen coming—although it later became revealed that Jim had been considering Steve for the puppeteer of Kermit, so that Jim could explore other creative endeavors.
However, their connection had started decades earlier. When Steve was a scant 10-years-old, he wrote Jim a letter to express his appreciation for his work, and to ask if he had written anything on the construction of puppets. In fact, Jim had not written anything on the construction of puppets at that time, but responded personally to Steve’s letter, and directed him toward some simple Muppet patterns that had been published a few years ago in a magazine.
Thus started the career of a life-long Jim Henson puppeteer, aided by Steve’s mother’s sewing machine. As Ken comments, puppeteering can be, and has been, looked at by the world’s great Mystical Traditions as a metaphor for ultimate Spirit being the transcendental Puppeteer of all worldly phenomena. And there is much truth in that observation. Spirit, if nothing else, inhabits a massive number of multiple perspectives, and in order to perform puppeteering successfully, one literally inhabits, and becomes one with, the puppet’s personality. It is a minor re-enaction of what Spirit does moment-to-moment spontaneously, throughout the entire Kosmos.
As with Jim Henson, Steve Whitmire is a very humble soul. If nothing else, Steve is honored to carry on a tradition started by a modern-day master, by whatever name. Jim’s productions have been among the most successful television series in history: Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, and Fraggle Rock were all international sensations. Sesame Street alone has aired more than 4,100 episodes over a 38-season run, winning 109 Emmy Awards in the process—and it’s still going. To say that Steve is a modern-day backbone of the Muppet tradition is in no way an exaggeration. You may not see his face, but you can see Steve animating Kermit the Frog in a musical duo with Kylie Minogue on YouTube, along with many other notable appearances.
Kermit the Frog was, and is, a public, (inter)national expression of the pluralistic, green worldview—but always with a subtle reminder of how multicultural expressions can be reconciled and brought together with an Integral View. It may not be easy being green, but it’s ever harder being teal (where an Integral understanding begins and expands). With the spirit of growth that Jim Henson embodied and intuited, and that Steve Whitmire carries on in an evolutionary context with a clearly Integral perspective, we invite you to celebrate this artistic and creative dimension of puppetry, and “taking the perspective of other” that it implies, in this one-of-a kind-dialogue….
"Jim walked into the room and said, ‘I want to do a show that will change the world and end war'—and the writers said, 'Well that’s great Jim, how could we possibly do that?' We didn’t know, but Fraggle Rock was the first ever international coproduction of any television show...."
(Click here for full dialogue.)
Previously on Integral Naked:
Tim Black - Indigenous Cultures in the Modern World
James Turner - The Integral-Political Imperative
Sally Kempton - Designer Spirituality, or Discipline Disaster?
Ken Wilber - The Origins of the Integral Perspective
Sally Kempton - From Bohemian Rebel to Integral Swami
Joe Perez - The Power of Integral Reconciliation
Alanis Morissette - Healing the Ruptures
Sally Kempton - Seeing Beyond the Mythic God
Joe Perez: Soulfully Gay - Out of the Closet, Into an Integral Embrace
Dan Millman: The Peaceful Warrior's Way - The Highest Teaching
Alex Grey: Integral Art - Anchoring the Seed of Liberation
Alanis Morissette: From Jagged Little Pill to Flavors of Entanglement
Sharon Stone: Like a Fine Diamond....
Dan Millman: The Peaceful Warrior’s Way - “This Is How to Do It”
Alex Grey: Integral Art - When Psychedelics Reveal the Spirit Within
Deepak Chopra: Buddha - A Story of Enlightenment