Spoiler Alert: If you've never seen Disney's 'The Lion King,' I am about to talk all about that movie.
In sixth-grade history class, our teacher assigned us an optional extra credit project. We would have to watch "The Lion King" and then answer some questions pertaining to what that movie can teach us about history. Being the overachiever I am, I decided I would get myself some extra points.
Now, I'm writing this article assuming most people have seen "The Lion King." It is a classic after all. There is one scene in particular that affected me. Simba, the protagonist, runs away from home and his duty to be the new king of the pack. He grows up over a montage of clips in the forest, alongside a lemur and warthog. He thinks he has life made.
But then his pack's main shaman, Rafiki, shows up. He points Simba toward a lake and tells him to look for his deceased father in the reflection. Simba says he cannot see anything but himself, but then Rafiki tells him to "look harder" and that his father "lives within you." It is then that Simba's father, Mufasa, appears before Simba in the clouds.
Mufasa tells Simba that "You have forgotten who you are, and so forgotten me." After Mufasa's ghost disappears back into the clouds, Rafiki and Simba talk again. Rafiki hits Simba's head with a stick, and when Simba gets annoyed Rafiki said "It doesn't matter. It's in the past."
To which Simba replied, "Yeah, but it still hurt."
And now, the most beautiful line my 11-year-old ears had ever heard, "Oh yes, the past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it, or you can learn from it."
We had to answer what lessons Simba was supposed to learn from this scene in The Lion King. Rafiki teaches him, via the stick, that although dark things may have happened in the past, acknowledging them head on allows us to learn and progress. What Mufasa teaches him, is that the past is carried on through the living.
In The Lion King, Simba is the only one who knows the truth: That Mufasa was killed by his own brother. It is only by using history that Simba can change the present. And that is why history is so important so that we can learn from our mistakes.
The movie and the project made me see history in a different light. I thought that scene was the most powerful moment I had ever seen in a film. I realized how much power history could give me. With a thorough knowledge of the past, we can learn how our world today works, and how to make it better.
Currently, I am studying for my Bachelor's of Arts in History. I spend hours a day better attempting to understand the past, and I love every second of it. I look to the past for inspiration: I led a student protest a year ago, and a major part of that process involved research into the strategies of Civil Rights protestors of the 1960s. I would not have been nearly as successful without that knowledge.
Mufasa also taught Simba about agency in history. The past only lives on through the present. Every day, it is our duty to remember the details, good and bad, of the past, and learn from them to improve our world today. And I would really love to make the world a better place. So, for the sake of the future, I am learning about the past.