[SPOILERS FOR PARKS AND RECS UP TO SEASON 4. AHHHHHH!]
“You and Leslie like to hold hands, and jump off of cliffs together, into the great unknown. You two have a good relationship. I don’t personally know what that’s like, but, I’m given to understand it means you’re going to land on your feet.” – Ron Swanson
Nick Offerman has become something of a sage to me and those I stand around (I’m hoping one day they’ll notice me, and we can be friends). He plays the character of Ron Swanson in Parks and Recreation, and has a magnificent moustache. He’s joined the likes of Bob Ross and The Human Fish as characters that remain important to us. That’s a difficult task, and something he should be mighty proud of. What a glorious man.
I mention him because he delivers an important little speech in the last episode of Parks and Recreation season four. It’s the speech I typed out up above, if you hadn’t realised. It’s delivered by a man who hates the mere mention of pathos and heart, and yet who delivers it with such feeling that it’s hard not to burst out into tears, good or otherwise. It means something, this speech, because of where the show has brought these characters so far, and because of where it looks like they’re going to have to go. This is the last season of Parks and Recreation, as we know it, anyway. Leslie is just about to win her campaign, and to achieve one of her life long goals. Ben Wyatt is going to head off to Washington, away from lovely little Pawnee Indiana. Our lord and saviour Ron Swanson is facing the possibility of promotion, which of course is perhaps most terrifying of all.
Things are in flux by the end of season four. Which is scary. Parks and Recreation, for me, is important for a thousand reasons. It’s my medicine, it’s my reliable little pill I can pop whenever I need to smile. It just makes life a bit easier, which can’t be over appreciated. So it’s really pretty scary when it looks like everything’s going to change for season five. I respect the need for change, I wouldn’t want the show to stagnate and grow dull. But it’s important to me as it is now. It would crush me if it turned into something I couldn’t enjoy.
Which is why Ron Swanson’s special little speech is so powerful, for me. It’s a reminder that the heart of the show won’t change, that the people I love and the relationships I want to see grow and the joy I want to feel and the honesty of it isn’t going anywhere. Season four makes us stand at the top of that cliff, looking down into the great unknown. It lets us know the show is aware of this. Then it gives us a nice pat on the back. We’ll land on our feet. Whatever ends up happening.
There’s something about watching Leslie and Ben that hurts for me, though. I’m Ron Swanson in this moment, not entirely sure if I know what it’s like to be as in love with someone as Ben and Leslie. It’s painful to see something I want so bad, and to know I don’t have it. But, like Ron Swanson, that regret, that melancholy, it doesn’t stop me from being happy for them. I still care for them, still want them to make the jump. And it’s bigger than them, it’s bigger than some silly TV show. It’s Ron Swanson, or Nick Offerman, or the writer Michael Schur, putting into words the pain of being alone, and the feeling of being at the top of that cliff without someone holding your hand.
Ron Swanson doesn’t take the promotion. He stays put, because that’s how he likes things. Change is for Leslie, and Ben, and all the other characters on the show. But not for Ron. He’ll stay right where he is, and that’s okay. The great unknown is scary. That won’t stop the show from being brave, though. If we’re in the mood, and if we have the urge, it shouldn’t stop us, either. But if we don’t have someone else’s hand to hold, and we look down into that great unknown and decide we’re not ready to make the jump, that’s perfectly okay too. Ron Swanson’s got our backs. He’s wise, like Bob Ross, or the Human Fish. He knows what’s up.
So another lesson is learned from the bible of Parks and Recreation. Jump when you are ready. That doesn’t have to be now. Hopefully I’ll find someone to hold onto when I make that jump, but today I’ll stay right where I am, thank you very much. I’ll be up here with Ron, and those people who might one day realise I’m uncomfortably close all the time, and that’s okay, for now. Thank you, Ron Swanson, for reminding me it’s okay to stay at the top of the cliff even while everybody else is jumping down.