Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Great Circle of Life

If you have kids that are around my boys’ age, then you probably remember movies such as “The Land Before Time” and “The Lion King.” I don’t know how many times I saw these wonderful movies, but they both spent record time in the my VCR (there were no DVDs yet). This may be true for you too if you are in your late teens and early 20s, have grandchildren in this age group, have nieces, nephews or cousins around this age, or didn’t live in a cave in the late 80s and early 90s. These were made for children but had very mature themes.

The characters in these movies lived in rather harsh worlds. They were youngsters themselves whose innocence of youth was violently disturbed by the harsh realities of life. In both films, the main character had to deal with the violent death of a parent – to not only come to grips with the loss of a loved one, but also survive without their primary caregiver. The evils of the world in all their indifference are strikingly apparent, but so too are the better qualities of humanity. And like any really good movie, good conquers evil in the end.

The similarities between these and other children’s movies of my kids’ time and those of my own youth are uncanny. I remember specifically a classic from the Disney studios by the name of “Bambi.” There were, of course, a number of others, but the theme of “Bambi” has the very same adult elements regarding the hardships, the sadness and the triumph of real life. I can’t say I remember “getting” this when I was a kid, and I don’t know if my kids “got” it either, but I do remember having many a discussion about one of the basics of life – death.
I don’t remember if it is in “The Lion King” or in “The Land Before Time” (it may be both), but one of the phrases used repeatedly is “the great circle of life.” It has to do with a number of ideas: Life is not forever; it is not guaranteed; some must die so that others may live; and even that, though perhaps only implied, death is not the end. At any rate, it is a pretty heavy topic for a child of five, or six, or seven… or 18, or 35… I don’t want to get into a discussion about what happens after death, but rather to reflect; the great circle of life is all around us.

There is a natural order to the world that we, as humans, seem to feel exempt from sometimes. The fact is that we were not always at the top of the food chain. There was a time when we were food. Now that we have dominated our environment, it is rare that we are prey to any but each other. Part of this ascension was the development of sentience. It gave us, among other things, the ability to care, to love and to hate. Although other animals express emotion, none are anywhere near as developed as we are. Death necessarily means more to us and sometimes it is indeed the end of the world.

Recently I wrote of the miracle frogs in the decorative pond outside my front door. I wrote about how the tadpoles appeared out of nowhere and how I sort of grew attached to them. I stopped using chemicals to treat the water to kill the algae and I actually found some tadpole food to feed them with. I wrote about how disappointed I was when they started to disappear and about how I was saddened when they were gone. After some maintenance to get rid of the algae, I didn’t expect to see any more critters in the pond.

The croaking of the frogs weeks later had me absolutely ecstatic! Now, I don’t know if the frogs were my tadpoles or if they just found my pond hospitable, but it was nature taking up residency with me all the same – and I loved it, I loved them. Yea, loved. You kind of get attached to the little buggers. Unfortunately, although they are higher on the food chain than the bugs they were eating, they were not higher than the neighborhood cat. I chased it off, but it was too late – the frogs either became cat food or beat a hasty retreat. The croaking is no more.

It saddens me – a little. No, I am not devastated. And that does not minimize one iota anyone’s loss of a loved one, human or otherwise. One frequent visitor to this blog recently lost her dog and her pain was as real as if it were any other family member – and many pets are. The frogs were not. It was just cool to have untamed nature right outside my front door, listening to their music every night. However, as Little Foot, Simba and Bambi taught me years ago, even my frogs - untamed and natural - are part of the great circle of life.

The frogs, who are apparently smarter than me or the cat, are back! I guess they were just laying low until the danger passed. They are somewhat less vocal, but who can blame them!


Anonymous said...

Hi. I was passing through and saw your blog. i'm 25 years old and LOVED The Land Before Time. I still do. And i still think Littlefoot's mom is the wisest being ever. :)

neal said...

Interesting post. Every since you did the post on the frogs I have been tossing over some ideas about the envrionment and mans lack of respect for it. Haven't come up with anything solid yet though.

One thing I thought I would share. I don't know if you have seen the first Matrix movie or not but there is a section in there where an agent named Smith is talking to Morpheus about humans. He said, and I am paraphrasing, that mankind are not mammals. He said all mammals find an equilibrium with the nature around them. Humans come in and use up all the natural resources and then spread to other areas to continue using up our resources. He said the only other organism that does this is a virus.

I thought that interesting that we would be compared to a virus.

Lee Ann said...

I agree. Some of those classic animated films do have adult "undertones", but most of the time the child does not get it.
Those were some classic movies you mentioned.
I have the movie Bambi on DVD and love watching it now.

Rey said...

"Great circle of life" is used repeatedly in Lion King. While Land before Time always talk about "The great Valley".

Yeah, those are great movies. I remembered how my younger siblings played both time and time again in the VHS player (though Land before time were about 4 years ahead of Lion King).

Now I made sure i got these titles in DVD so my 2 yr old son can enjoy it too.

OldLady Of The Hills said...

The frogs sure know how to survive, don't they..I'm so happy they are back! Like you, I get really involved when certain creatures of nature take up residence around the outside of my house...One year I had so many different birds nesting very close to my house...it was fantastic! But I noticed, that after the Blue Jays came and busted up some of these nests and destroyed some of the little birds and the eggs too, none of these birds feel safe anymore...which is very very sad to me...at first they came back one season or two, trying once again formally their safe places to nest...but, no more, because the Blue Jays sought them out, each time and in fact, earlier and earlier in the nesting process, so now...I see no nesting birds in those special places anymore...like I said, it makes me sad...I'm not thilled with this part of The Circle Of Life, I'll tell you.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Frogs=1, cat=0. YAY!

I remember ALL the movies. Yeah, my son's a little younger than yours but I had a niece and nephew, too. When I was a kid I HATED Bambi cuz the mom died. Now my son hates it for the same reason, I'm happy to say. ;o)

BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

Very creative post.

I think, but am not completely certain, that the Circle of life comes from the Lion King.

It is amazing how many simple, yet meaningful messages are inside of cartoons. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that so many of them are timeless.

Michael K. Althouse said...

Jen ~ Welcome to my blog! I talk about all kinds of stuff here. I think Littlefoots mom was very wise too!

neal ~ Yea, it does appear that way at times - but I don't think we have a long enough tenure on this planet to make any conclusive long term predictions as to our effect on it. I would give it a few hundred thousand more years. My guess is that, although we are definately mucking it up for the current residents of the planet, the Earth itself doesn't care.

lee ann ~ I haven't seen Bambi in years, but I agree that these movies were far more than just entertaining - to me anyway.

rey villegas ~ welcome to my blog! Thanks for the clarification. I knew it was one of them, now I remember.

ooloth ~ Blue Jays are just nasty birds. I remember when we were kids, they were the only birds that we could shoot BB guns at and no one ever got mad.

saur ~ it's funny you should mention your reaction to Bambi - I kinda had the same reaction. In fact, I don't feel comfortable with conflict on that scale even today.

Go Frogs!! (They just started croaking... this very second!)

bfc ~ I had not thought of that, but a very sound theory. Perhaps it is why they cycle through every half generation or so.

X said...

"...There was a time when we were food. Now that we have dominated our environment, it is rare that we are prey to any but each other...."

That is so true. How many of us worry about a bear attack? Not many. How many of us worry about another taking our jobs or our spouses or even the last pair of pants in our size. We feel hatred towards these people, and for teh most part, people would use any chance tehy get to stab people in the back. It's sad society has come to this.

And I remember both of those movies! I actually have the Lion King on VHS. and teh LK was the circle of lif refference...in fact, Elton John had a song by the name from teh movie.

Ellen said...

My Dad took me to see Bambi when I was a little girl, and I cried my eyes out when Bambi's Mom didn't make it out of the forest during the big fire. It is my first recollection of what it was like to feel depressed, and I couldn't seem to watch the movie again till I got older. I also questioned God at this age... how could He possibly let Bambi become an orphan? Oh well, the weird things you think about when you are little....

I did enjoy watching The Lion King with my son... and every other Disney cartoon that came out when he was little. It proved to be a great excuse to go watch the movies as an adult.

I'm glad for you that the frogs have returned to the pond. Kitty's are notorious for chasing off or hunting critters ... but then that's their circle of life.
I came close to chasing off my neighbors kitty from attacking a grey dove that landed in my yard... but the dove was equally smart and could sense the danger. It was amazing to watch it all and not get involved... then to witness it balance so well without injury.

UltimateWriter said...

land before time was entertaining, kinda makes you wish some well meaning dinos were still around...

CyberKitten said...

Go Frogs indeed. I do like those little critters. Always nice to see 'em around. I really should think about having a little pond in my garden..

As to Bambi - I had a HUGE thing about Thumper. He was definitely my favourite - but then I do adore rabbits...

Michael K. Althouse said...

oilf ~ Ain't it the truth. And I have been informed that it was in fact the LK that had the ciecle of life.

ellen ~ next time, the kitty gets the hose! there's nothing cats hate more than to be soaking wet!

ultimate ~ ir even some not so well meaning ones would be cool!

cyberkitten ~ I somehow though you may be partial to, well... kittens. Frogs are pretty cool, they eat my bugs and sing the night away.

~ MIke

CyberKitten said...

Mike said: cyberkitten ~ I somehow thought you may be partial to, well... kittens. Frogs are pretty cool, they eat my bugs and sing the night away.

Yup. I love cats. Cats are cool creatures... but I like most animals... It's the humans I have a problem with [grin].

Anonymous said...

I came across this posting on accident. To get super off topic about what it is im looking for I must say...Lion King is by far one of the greatest movies Ive ever seen.
To get back on topic I was wondering if anyone out there could help me. Lately I have been struggling with my beliefs about Life after death. I think have come to somewhat of terms with what I would like to believe, I just dont know If what I believe has a name. The belief I am referring to is infact The Circle of Life. After death we fill a small hall in the ground and in a sense we become part of the earth. We help the Grass and the trees grow. Animals feed off of grass and so far down the circle.
I think this belief about life after death fits me well and has helped me to become more of a GREEN freak. Respecting our earth has become a big part of my life. My problem with the whole situation is that I have no idea what to call this. If im asked and I refer to it as "Circle of Life" people laugh and say ive watched Lion King to many times. Does anyone know what this belief is called? Am I just really crazy? If anyone can help i would greatly appreciate it! Thanks.