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Fr. Emmanuel Salifu writes: The Lion king and the cycle of life

Watching the remake of the 1994 cartoon Lion King, I felt a bit disappointed with the “remixing” of the music but I have appreciated more profoundly the great lessons that the story reveals: Great African values of togetherness, community, love and care of nature.

Life is not an endless and meaningless straight line which leads into the abyss of nothingness (as Timon and Pumbaa had taught Simba) for which reason we must sing “akuna matata”; but life is a cycle in which everything is connected.

To think of life as a straight endless line that leads into an abyss of nothingness is to be care free, to live an indifferent life, to care about nothing: neither about people nor nature and hence begin plunder and exploit nature and people.

 “The book of nature is one and indivisible”, says Pope Benedict XVI (emeritus), “and includes the environment, life, sexuality, the family, social relations, and so forth. It follows that ‘the deterioration of nature is closely connected to the culture which shapes human coexistence’” (Laudato Sì no. 6).

But when we see life as a circle, knowing that everything is connected, we begin to care not only about people around us but we begin to show concern for nature.

“Because all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect, for all of us as living creatures are dependent on one another” (Laudato Si no. 42). For when we rebel against nature as if it has nothing to do with us, it would also rebel against us.

The great African philosopher and theologian Mbiti has taught us the meaning of the word “Ubuntu”: I am because we are and because we are, I am.

This is in no way to reduce and/ or submerge the individual’s identity into that of the community but to make him recognise himself as a person or an individual in relation and not in isolation: for no man is an island. We are who were are because of our relation with others.

We are shaped by family and friends, we are shaped by our experiences both good and bad. And in all of this, we can appreciate who we are. We are all connected.

In one of the many beautiful scenes of the Lion King, Mufasa (the Lion King) told Simba (his son) that he would one day inherit everything and rule. At this Simba exclaimed: all this would belong to me? Here, his father taught him his first lesson: “It belongs to no one, but it is yours to protect.”

We are custodians of the cycle of life not owners. Because we have to eat does not mean we should plunder and devastate. We must think of the cycle of life and know that we are connected in the eyes and plan of God. What goes around comes around. 

This is why no sin is an isolation sin and no good is also an isolation good. Every sin affects us all as a community and every good also has a communal effect. And so Pope Francis writes: “No one is saved alone, as an isolated individual, but God attracts us looking at the complex web of relationships that take place in the human community.

God enters into this dynamic, this participation in the web of human relationships.” (Gaudete et Exultate no.6)


Source: Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Salifu

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