Monday, October 01, 2007
All the Colors of the Wind
I remember when the movie Pocahontas came out while I was in high school. At the time (without ever actually having seen it) I decided that it was a worthless, politically correct, "liberal" movie all about environmentalism and multi-culturalism (which were dirty words to me back then). At that point in my life I was a huge fan of Rush Limbaugh and would have considered myself very, very conservative. I just didn't have the ears to hear the kind of messages in a movie like this. I didn't even give them the time of day. I just labeled them as "liberal" and immediately wrote them off.

Fastforward about 12 years to the other day when I took Emma to the local YMCA for their open play time on the gymnastics equipment. They had Disney songs playing in the background and I ended up hearing the Pocahontas theme song, "Colors of the Wind". (I had heard it a few times before on Emma's own Disney hits CD.) This time, as I listened to the words, I thought "Wow, that's a pretty good song. There's some real truth and wisdom here." Remembering my previous prejudices, I thought this was a perfect illustration of the transformation my own beliefs have undergone in the intervening years, and it was interesting to see just how far I've come in what I think is true and important.

In case you're curious, here is a YouTube video of the song as well as the lyrics:



You think I'm an ignorant savage
And you've been so many places
I guess it must be so
But still I cannot see
If the savage one is me
How can there be so much that you don't know?
You don't know ...

You think you own whatever land you land on
The Earth is just a dead thing you can claim
But I know every rock and tree and creature
Has a life, has a spirit, has a name

You think the only people who are people
Are the people who look and think like you
But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger
You'll learn things you never knew you never knew

Have you ever heard the wolf cry to the blue corn moon
Or asked the grinning bobcat why he grinned?
Can you sing with all the voices of the mountains?
Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?
Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?

Come run the hidden pine trails of the forest
Come taste the sunsweet berries of the Earth
Come roll in all the riches all around you
And for once, never wonder what they're worth

The rainstorm and the river are my brothers
The heron and the otter are my friends
And we are all connected to each other
In a circle, in a hoop that never ends

How high will the sycamore grow?
If you cut it down, then you'll never know
And you'll never hear the wolf cry to the blue corn moon

For whether we are white or copper skinned
We need to sing with all the voices of the mountains
We need to paint with all the colors of the wind

You can own the Earth and still
All you'll own is Earth until
You can paint with all the colors of the wind

These days I hear this song as a fairly accurate indictment of historic Western attitudes towards Creation as mere resources to be owned and exploited, and towards non-Western cultures as primitives who lack Western science and Western morality. This lyric in particular struck me:
You think the only people who are people
Are the people who look and think like you
But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger
You'll learn things you never knew you never knew

This practice of taking the perspective of those who are not like oneself is so crucial. We don't even know the depths of our own ignorance until we try to look at the world from a totally different perspective. Back in high school I couldn't have even imagined why someone would find anything of value in a song like this. These days it's hard for me to remember why I didn't.

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posted by Mike Clawson at 1:23 PM | Permalink |


3 Comments:


At 10/09/2007 12:32:00 PM, Blogger Derek Berner

Sorry to be a grammar nazi here but I think that second "earth" in the last stanza is lowercase -- in the sense of, you can own the whole world but if you don't appreciate it for what it is all you've got is dirt. Interesting parallel to Mk. 8:36 when you think of it like that.

 

At 10/09/2007 04:18:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

I don't know Derek, I just cut and paste it from a lyrics website. :)

Though the parallel with Mark is interesting. I hadn't thought of it that way before.

 

At 10/09/2007 07:17:00 PM, Blogger Derek Berner

Heh. Well. I sometimes email lyric websites too when I see errors. Bad habit. Anyway, it could actually be capital-E-Earth, but it just makes more sense to me (or perhaps seems more meaningful) with that little tweak, despite the original author's intent.

 

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