I already talked about the spirit and impact of Ted Lasso, but I can’t stop thinking about this character. Specifically, the seemingly endless well of optimism and joy that Ted carries with him everywhere he goes.
The idea of happiness is one that I think about a lot – where does it really come from? How do we find it? How can we live a life centered around happiness?
My mom used to always say that your attitude is a choice. “You can choose,” she’d say. “You can choose if you’re going to be angry or upset. You can choose joy or frustration.” I sort of thought this was codswallop. I can’t just choose, I’d think. It’s not that easy mom, you just don’t understand. But I think there is truth there. Of course, you can’t choose what your emotions are, and you certainly can’t choose to pretend to be happy in the midst of sadness or grief or stress – that is neither helpful nor healthy. But I believe there are countless moments in our days and lives when, thinking we have no control, we settle for anger or sadness. But maybe it’s not the emotion we are choosing, but the attitude. The attitude then impacts the emotion.
In a powerful moment near the end of season one, Ted brings up a Walt Whitman quote: “Be curious, not judgmental.” Choose to listen rather than reject. Choose to engage with the world rather than block it out.
Proverbs says something similar:
“Apply your heart to instruction and your ear to the words of knowledge (23:12).” and “The beginning of Wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight (4:7).”
So is this curiosity or penchant for learning what gives Ted his optimism?
Maybe happiness just comes naturally when we work our very hardest to give rather than take. In a TED Talk, the actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt said:
“The more I go after that powerful experience of paying attention, the happier I am. But the more I go after that powerful feeling of getting attention, the unhappier I am. If your creativity is driven by a desire to get attention, you’re never going to be creatively fulfilled.”
Ted works to be actively curious and engaged in those around him. Maybe it’s through his curiosity that he finds things that bring joy. Perhaps in order to be happy, you first have to work to see the happiness around you.
Of course, maybe Ted is just a wildly happy guy, and it’s simply by being happy that he is able to inspire joy and change in those around him. But for those of us with a curmudgeonly bent, we need a stepping stone.
Be curious – you may just stumble onto something that will make you smile.
I have recently started watching the Apple TV+ original show, Ted Lasso, starring Jason Seduikis. It tells the story of a young college football coach from Kansas who is hired to coach a English Premiere League football club with no experience, and practically no knowledge of the game.
While the plot of the show revolves around the Richmond Football Club, the story concerns the impact of Ted – endlessly optimistic, kind, thoughtful and generous – on those around him. It is not a story of a protagonist changing, but of a protagonist changing those around them. Here is a great video that describes the nuances and specifics of this sort of story – called the “flat arc.” In that video, the narrator says:
“One of the reasons we enjoy stories, is that they reassure us that we can change. But movies with flat arcs assure us of something else: that we can change the world around us without sacrificing our beliefs. These are stories about good people. Inspirational heroes that spend their lives spreading a positive message in the hopes of radically transforming the people around them and the world at large, for the better.”
Reading that paragraph, and watching this show, I am constantly reminded of the character of Jesus. The story of Jesus’ life is a flat arc. Jesus’ character does not change, he does not go through a transformation of belief or understanding. There is a not a lie about himself he believes at the beginning of his story that, by the end, he has learned to dismiss. He is constant. And the story of his life is one of changing those around him, and the sacrifices he makes to do so. It is a change of circumstances, not a change of character.
Ted Lasso is an excellent embodiment of how we can live like Jesus in a modern world. Ted is a force for good. And sure, I’ve always wanted to be a good person, and wanted to be a positive force in the lives of those around me, and wanted to treat others and treat life as Jesus did. But reading an ancient text – or even watching a show or movie that depicts the life of Jesus – does not put a crystal clear image of how I can be that Christ-like ‘force for good’ in a modern world.
Ted Lasso shows me how I can immediately change my attitudes, actions and words in today’s context, to match the spirit of Jesus. And it does it through a beautifully written, funny, sometimes raunchy piece of television.