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!