“Oh, yes, the past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it.”
– Rafiki, The Lion King
Happy New Year!
It suddenly occurred to me that I couldn’t ask for a better quote to share as we say goodbye to one year and enter into another, a time when we truly consider more about the past, the present, and the future.
This quote comes from one of the best moments, I think, in all of cinematic history. Just after he experiences a vision of his deceased father, calling on him to remember his true self and save their homeland, the young lion Simba realizes what he must do, and what he has truly been doing all this time, trying to run away from his past. That’s when Rafiki, everyone’s favorite monkey of an adviser, simply whacks him on the head with a stick. Simba demands what that was for, and Rafiki replies, laughing, “It doesn’t matter! It’s in the past!” Yes, but it still hurts, says the young lion king. That is when Rafiki says these words, demonstrating as he swings his stick again, which Simba ducks under this time; he has learned a quick and important lesson from the very recent past.
Rafiki is entirely right in what he says, of course. We can’t change the past, no matter how much we may want to, so it comes down to what we do with it, and that comes down to either being trapped by it or using it to make ourselves stronger and better than we were before.
The pain of the past can linger for a very long time in our hearts, weighing down on our souls, and it is so very easy to try and find some sort of respite, some manner of escape. Some people turn to the very worst sorts of cheap, short-lived pleasure and become consumed by their need for it even as it destroys them. Others flee, running far away to hide within a new life where they hope never to be haunted by the past again. Still others go the other way, holding their pain so close and tight that they never let it go, locking it up and never speaking of it, yet still failing to face it head-on and heal. And then there are those who try to forget it, erase it, or rewrite it, as if hoping to undo the fact that there was ever anything wrong in the first place, yet only ensuring that it will all happen again.
But then there are those who go truly go through the process of healing. They face what happened, and devour it. They remember it, learn from it, and do better. These are they who truly overcome the past, leaving it behind them, a stepping stone on their way instead of a stumbling block in their path.
Even a terrible travesty can be used to the betterment of ourselves and our world, if we learn from it.
It may hurt forever, even after we have healed, but that pain need not be our master.
So, as the year turns, I wish you all, my wonderful audience, a truly happy new year, one filled with hope, healing, learning, and love. May the pain of the past have no power over you.