- Monday, June 23, 2008
My grandson and I had spent the entire day together. Oh, it was a great adventure, and now we had come to the best part: Poppa and his buddy curled up on the couch together to watch a movie—and loving every wonderful minute of it. On this occasion, we’d just finished off the evening meal with a chocolate-covered ice cream bar. We licked our fingers, smacked our lips, and headed for the main feature: Disney’s animated classic The Lion King.
As we settled into the couch, I noticed that my little buddy seemed to crowd especially close to my side and nestle under my arm. I said, “This must be a pretty scary movie, huh, buddy?”
All of a sudden a new personality emerged. His eyes lit up and doubled in size. His voice took on a sense of determined focus, and his hands and arms gestured with all the intensity a three-year-old can muster.
“Scar is a baaaaad lion!” He paused for a moment and then added, “And I’m gonna get my shaawtguun and shoot him when he shows up.”
He scrambled for the ever-present pile of toys, looking for whatever it was he called his “shaawtguun.” Unable to find anything that resembled one, he settled for a plastic golf club. The movie began.
You know the story. The kingdom around Pride Rock, ruled by the benevolent Mufasa, is blessed with abundant grass, sparkling streams, and healthy animals. The music is sweet. All is well. But Scar, the usurper, carries out his evil plot and murders Mufasa. Then he rids the kingdom of the young heir to the throne, Simba, by shaming him into believing that Mufasa’s death was the young cub’s fault. Believing himself to be a guilty prodigal, Simba wanders hopelessly into the far reaches of the wilderness.
And it gets worse. Scar’s wicked tyranny systematically sucks the life out of the pridelands, and the kingdom devolves into misery. The once beautiful landscape is reduced to ashes. The water stagnates, the grass disappears, evil triumphs, and depression reigns.
And then . . . Simba comes to his senses. The entire story turns on a single scene, a scene that centers on just one word, one of the most powerful words in our language.
On a starlit evening, Simba finds himself beside a pool of water. A refreshing pool of reflection and recollection. The pool of memory becomes something of an altar of remembrance, and the real Simba begins to emerge. Now full grown, but still in exile in the wilderness, the young lion has been encouraged by his childhood friend Nala to return and restore the kingdom to its former glory. But Simba refuses to return. Wallowing in the deep disappointment of his own past and its false guilt, he seems hopelessly lost.
In his disorientation, all he can do is stare into the pool at his own reflection. And then, in his reflection, he sees something larger than himself. Behind and above him, the pool reflects the stars sparkling in the dark. Voices from the past whisper on the wind, the familiar voices of the great lion kings of the past, repeatedly intoning one simple message to the young lion:
Remember who you are . . .
Remember who you are . . .
Remember . . .
Deeply moved, Simba begins to awaken to reality. He remembers who he is. He is Mufasa’s cub, his father’s son, heir to the throne. He begins to shed the dark side of his disappointing past and sees the brighter side of events that have shaped him. Starting, however hesitantly, to see the noble side of his father in himself, he hears his father’s voice call out, “You have forgotten who you are, because you have forgotten me.”
What is happening to Simba? It is the very same process that many of us need to experience.
At the pool of memory, Simba begins to realize that he is not just part of a meaningless animal herd wandering in a wilderness of forgetfulness. He has an identity. He is part of something larger than himself, standing on the shoulders of those who have gone before. A mantle has been passed to him, a just and righteous mantle.
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