Finding Purpose

After watching Lilo & Stitch in class (5 times, I might add), I am still struck by a couple of really powerful scenes from the movie.

The first of these scenes is when Jumba is watching Stitch about halfway through the film.  He observes that “626 was designed to be a monster, but now he has nothing to destroy. You see, I never gave him a greater purpose. What must it be like to have nothing, not even memories to look back on in the middle of the night?”

I think this scene is particularly meaningful because of its applicability – what must life be like if we have no purpose, no clear reason to be here?  What must life be like if we are truly feathers drifting in the wind (as is the case in Forrest Gump)?  I think this is one of those really meaningful existential questions that we can all ask ourselves.

The other scene that always hits me when I watch the movie is when Stitch wanders out into the middle of the woods with The Ugly Duckling.  He sits quietly, sadly in the center of a small clearing, looks around, and begins to cry, “Lost. Lost.” 

I think, particularly in connection with what Jumba says, this is so poignant.  Stitch recognizes that he has no purpose, and that he has no family to help him find it.  He cries because he has not found his place in the world, but knows that he wants a place to be loved – he wants a home.

In part, I think this is a sort of character vs. self conflict in that it is about Stitch trying to form a clear identity apart from what Jumba calls his “destructive nature.” This conflict is only resolved when Stitch considers Ohana – nobody gets left behind, or forgotten.  Because Nani and Lilo had embraced him, because he began to feel like it was a place where he belonged, Stitch realized that he wasn’t lost, after all.  As he says at the end of the movie, “This is my family. I found it all on my own.  It is little and broken, but still good. Yes, still good.” 

Despite the problems and difficulties their little family has, Stitch recognizes the positives – he sees that they care about each other, that they are warm-hearted people, and that they truly care about him. And this recognition is both the resolution in the movie and a part of the theme.  Perhaps more significantly, however, he points out that he found his family by himself, which seems to be the resolution in the story.

Based on what I see as the problem in the story and the way that problem is resolved, it seems clear that one of the prominent themes in the film is that purpose (and a likely consequence, happiness) is found in those things that we value most, such as home and family.  In other words, we must seek out, and possibly even create, our own purpose in life, and it is this purpose that will help us find happiness.

I have to say, that’s pretty deep for a silly Disney movie…

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3 responses to “Finding Purpose

  • Leroy Hurt

    Regarding Forrest Gump’s white feather, it would be worth comparing that image to Cyrano de Bergerac’s plume. Here’s a take on it –

    I was struck with the image of the feather in the movie Forrest Gump. In that movie, Forrest, a slow-minded man, went from success to success without having the talent and education expected for those kinds of achievements. Remember the movie’s showing how he ostensibly started the “Have a nice day” craze and how the BubbaGump Shrimp Company succeeded because they fortuitously missed the hurricane? And remember Lieutenant Dan, the military officer made bitter because he didn’t die in battle the way he expected to? The feather drifted in and out of the movie’s scenes, blown here and there, as if to remind the audience that there’s nothing that can be done to affect fate. What happens, happens and Lieutenant Dan finally found peace when he acknowledged that.

    Forrest Gump’s feather was a modern expression of an old question: how much control do you really have and how much do external influences affect your life? In the ancient world, people were born into success or poverty as hereditary nobility or landless workers. The ancient Greeks even thought the gods conspired to maintain that order, knocking down anyone who would have the hubris to reach beyond what was supposed to be their place in life. And Confucius prescribed a social order for China that is felt to this day.

    In the modern world of greater economic and social mobility, those questions are more urgent because you’re told that you’re now responsible for your destiny. The secret to success is working hard, never giving up, and having a positive attitude. You can even use failure as a lesson leading to future success. The smashing success of self-help literature (searching the Internet will show you sales figures in the billions of dollars just for this book genre) shows how strong is the belief in being able to control destiny.

    Scott Sandage’s book Born Losers: A History of Failure in America, claimed that you’ve been programmed to think your success depends on you. Researching the backgrounds of failed businessmen in nineteenth century America, he noticed a shift in perception of failure from being something that happened, like going out of business, to something that described who someone was. If that’s true, then today, you’re between a rock and a hard place, doing what the world has told you to do to succeed and wondering if you really have any control over it.

    But when you’re fully aligned with God’s purposes, you stop drifting like the white feather in Forrest Gump. Instead, the confidence that comes from truly knowing that you’re on the right track in pursuing your unfinished business has put you on a path of certainty that makes your decisions and actions decisive. Far from the aimlessly drifting white feather, your new confidence is related to a different white feather, the white plume of Cyrano de Bergerac.

    Cyrano de Bergerac swept across the stage in Edmond Rostand’s play by the same name, earned Jose Ferrer an Academy Award for the role in a later movie, and inspired Steve Martin to reprise the character in the romantic comedy Roxanne. Cyrano could do it all: compose a poem extemporaneously during a sword fight, fight victoriously in battle, and play musical instruments.

    But his most notable physical characteristic, an unusually large nose, symbolized his most notable quality: a self-confidence so strong it showed up unconsciously in grand gestures and swashbuckling courage we now call panache. In fact, panache is a word given new meaning because of Cyrano. Literally meaning a plume or feather on a hat or helmet, the word took on its more modern meaning of outwardly visible self-confidence when Cyrano made the white feather a symbol of courage, loyalty, honor, and devotion to duty.

    The panache, or white plume, identified officers on the battlefield so their soldiers could follow. But it also marked them as targets for the enemy, so wearing the white plume took courage. One of the officers gave Cyrano the opportunity to turn the white plume into a symbol of transcendent courage. That officer, when seeing himself threatened by the enemy, threw his feather away so he could blend into the battlefield confusion. Cyrano risked his life to retrieve that feather from where it fell on the battlefield, demonstrating the courage that comes from dedication to one’s ideals.

  • Sabrina Roberts

    You are really good at doing wirte up’s about books. You really get the good ponits of the story, such as when you where talking about Leo and Stich.

    I wish i could write better!
    How do i improve it?

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