Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Taming Dragons

I'm hard pressed to find many movies anymore that interest me. But since I'm a grandfather, there are some I have to see because my grandchildren are anxious to go. It seems that every time I'm with them, we end up going to a good movie for children. I've been educated through these movies. I've learned about what animals need and appreciate. I've learned about robots and the importance of caring for the environment. I've learned that even though we may not do things like everyone else, we may have a special gift to contribute to the common good.

Movies for children aren't embarrassed to teach values and raise moral questions. I guess the culture still assumes that below the age of six or seven, we still need some guidance in forming character.

That brings me to one of the latest, apparently a huge box office hit, "How to Tame Your Dragon." My wife and I enjoy movies for children even without the children. Since our grandchildren live fifteen hundred miles away, and I knew I wouldn't see them before they saw the movie, we went to the "Dragon," here. We went just us seniors, in a theatre of parents and children.

It's in 3D and what a great joy it was! In a time when the culture is constantly crying "kill first and ask questions later;" when members of a certain race or religion or ideological persuasion are supposed to be our natural and perennial foes; when we refuse to talk and don't know how to listen; when fear motivates most of what we do; in such a time, this movie is cultural commentary and character education for all, not just children.

The small boy who is the main character in the movie is able to withstand the pressure not just of his peers and his culture, but also the wrath of his father, in his pursuit of a developing relationship with a befriended dragon. I don't want to say too much about the movie as I'd like you to see it, hopefully, with a youngster or the young in heart. But there's a significant line toward the end that I don't want you to miss. When asked why he befriended the dragon the small boy said, "when I looked in the eyes of the dragon I saw the same fear I felt."

What an insight! And it's the beginning of ending wars and building peace. If we can only admit our fear and recognize it in the eyes of the other.

Gandhi believed that one of the most significant marks of the satyagrahi was fearlessness. Working for nonviolent social change means developing a discipline for dealing with our fears. Perhaps we banish fear through prayer or meditation; perhaps through role play; perhaps through gradually engaging the adversary in trial and error.

Gandhi's call for fearlessness in the pursuit of Truth reminds me of a passage in First John in the Christian New Testament. "There is no fear in love for love casts out fear." If we are working in the service of Love, there is no room for fear. Love crowds it out.

We, too, can train our dragons. Following Truth, or Love will help. They provide us the inspiration we need to face the fear and befriend our culture's fiends.

Carl Kline

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