Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Lorax and Vices

My children have lately been obsessed with the movie the Lorax, based on the Dr. Seuss book of the same name.  This doesn't bother me because the tunes are really catchy.  It's also good teaching not just about how important it is to look after our environment and avoid over-consumption/consumerism but about a whole lot of other things too.

Let's take this song for example.  I don't know if the song writer had this in mind, but the first bit is true for any type of vice we have.  The lyrics are thus:

How bad can I be?
I'm just doing what comes naturally.
How bad can I be?
I'm just following my destiny.
How bad can I be?
I'm just doing what comes naturally.
How bad can I possibly be?

It's the very words we use to dupe ourselves and others into thinking whatever our vice is, it's okay because it's "natural" or our "destiny" and therefore how possibly bad could this make us.  There are two big issues this can be applied to: abortion and gay sex.  It's my destiny that I am following so this baby isn't a part of it.  And it's natural that I feel this way for this person so how can I be bad?

The Lorax shows us clearly that when we decide our own morality we run into problems.  Furthermore, a lot of atheists believe in the collective determining morality.  But the Lorax shows how bad it can get when the collective decides morality...or rather shuts its eyes to the truth.

In the story, the Lorax is a mythical creature who "speaks for the trees."  But in my mind, he's a fictional representation of the moral law that is outside of us.  In other words, he represents God's morality.  He speaks for God. 

In the movie the character, Once-ler, who ends up being responsible for the destruction of trees, asks the Lorax repeatedly why he doesn't use his power to put a stop to Once-ler's chopping and mucking and glubbing.  The Lorax repeatedly says it doesn't work that way.

Just like God, the Lorax isn't going to intervene.  He could, but he isn't going to.  Instead, the Lorax lets the Once-ler muck things up (while the population ignores it because of it's over-indulgence).  In the end the Once-ler does come to a full stop, but only after he has chopped the very last tree.  Sometimes people are like that.  They only come to a full stop when they've essentially destroyed themselves and others.  All the more reason why we must speak up because "unless someone cares a whole lot, nothing is going to change, it's not."

Furthermore, it teaches us that we need to look for morality outside our own selfishness and to learn self-discipline, sacrifice, and self-control.  Otherwise we are the Once-ler, on a path to destruction.

The ironic part, though, is that Dr. Seuss aka Theodore Geisel was basically a liberal.  Although he grew up Lutheran, his political leanings were left.  He was a die-hard democrat and wrote various political cartoons and several political children's stories including The Lorax.  A lot of pro-lifer's like to quote the Horton Hears a Who "a person's a person no matter how small" but Geisel demanded it not be used.  The other irony is that I see The Lorax as being about how we let our vices get the better of us, yet Geisel had an affair.  Perhaps Geisel didn't realize all the the implications his words had even though he preferred that they speak for themselves.

1 comment:

  1. Henry LOVES The Lorax! We own the DVD and he's watched it at least a half dozen times. And I agree, the music is extremely catch. :) I downloaded some of the soundtrack for him, and I find myself listening to it sometimes, don't tell anybody. :)


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