Sometimes, you’re lying on the couch with a cold, grateful for Netflix and your mom’s chicken soup, and you think you’re watching a simple Disney movie but instead get a little gem of wisdom, as I did watching Moana.
Is it a feel-good Disney movie? Yes. Does it have cultural problems? Yes. Is it also, as all the best stories are, a window into how we might do this whole life thing more wisely? Absolutely.
Spoiler alert: I’m about to give away the plot of the movie, including the end. With some help from her friends, Moana crosses the ocean to restore the stolen heart of the goddess who gives life to the world. A lava demon is guarding the goddess’s island, but when Moana makes it past the demon, she finds that the goddess is gone.
Then Moana does a remarkable thing—she recognizes that the demon is the goddess. Without her heart, the goddess has gone from being a giver of life to a fiery, violent force that knows only how to attack and keep others out. Sounds like real life.
Inexplicably, Moana then chooses to do something more powerful than we generally imagine it to be: she trusts. She approaches this lava monster that was just recently trying to destroy her and says, “You know who you are.”
She doesn’t say, “I know who you are” but “You know who you are.” Moana has spent most of the movie figuring out who she is, defying her parents, moving forward despite her uncertainty. This might be the only way we can help others know themselves, by getting to know ourselves first.
We have so many stories of good overcoming evil in some giant, cataclysmic battle with a lot of violence and a lot of death, but in life, we don’t have hordes of evil beings. We do have plenty of people who have suffered in one of the myriad ways that cause us to lose our hearts.
We all have days when our hearts go missing, some of us more than others. If we can see the god or goddess within another on his or her worst day, who can say how we might give life to this world of ours?