Thursday, June 28, 2012

#39: How to become extinct

(c) Disney

Dinosaur, 2000
watched June 17, 2012

Visually and technologically, Dinosaur is pretty impressive: it's the first (and only, I believe) in the Disney animated canon to combine live action background footage with fully computer animated characters. Even viewing it in 2012, the scenes are quite detailed and realistic (as realistic as dinosaurs can be, since no one on earth has seen one in real life. Unless you count Jurassic Park. 'Cause that was totally real life).

But that doesn't quite make up for the film's obvious lack of "Disney magic." The story--centering around the migration of a herd of dinosaurs after an asteroid destroys their homes--feels a bit tortured and Land Before Time-ish. The characters are, ironically, two dimensional, with names hard to pronounce and remember. The dinosaurs' realistic looks (brown, scaly, and huge) communicate an unfortunately limited range of emotions. Additionally, the overly epic orchestral score mismatches the unmoving plot. It was just hard to be invested in the story.

Despite its significant flaws, I think Dinosaur still contains truth we can learn from. Aladar, the main character, is a good-natured iguanadon whose belief in helping older, weaker dinosaurs gets him in trouble with Kron, the herd's self-appointed leader. Kron's survival-of-the-fittest philosophy makes him tough, mean and unforgiving. He has no sympathy for those who struggle and would rather leave them behind.

In contrast, Aladar, raised by a family of lemurs (yep, another adopted orphan story), holds a strong value for thinking of others' needs before his own. Without hesitation, Aladar advocates for the older dinosaurs, but Kron refuses to listen and responds with extreme anger and even threats of violence.

In this conflict I see familiar experiences in church and work communities I've been a part of--leaders more concerned with being in control than actually making space for change. It's true, there are some things that should never change: the Gospel, the Bible, God. But sometimes when leaders lead for a long time, they get into habits or traditions that don't necessarily serve the community or advance its purpose. They're blinded by politics and sin, inevitable in organizational life. They're unable to listen and learn from younger folks who, though also imperfect, can bring fresh ideas about increased effectiveness. Sometimes they can even call out the flaws and sin that weigh down the community. The clash between generations of leaders can result in mass exodus of younger people. This has certainly been evident in the Western church.

In the film, the changing climate results in a dried up watering hole that the herd had previously relied on during their journey. Kron insists that the herd move on and go without water. But Aladar looks at the situation from a different perspective and discovers that there's plenty of water underneath the surface.

What dried up watering holes exist in our communities? What new perspective might show us opportunities that are waiting to burst open and produce new life?

If we aren't wise to ask these questions and empower new leaders to lead the way...well, we know what happened to the dinosaurs don't we?

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