I love Kung Fu Panda. It’s a great show. It also has an important, if subtle message.
After all the training, hilarious fight scenes (Tai Lung biting his own tail cracks me up every time), and the story of doing what you love, there is a deeper meaning. Before the final battle, Po’s father, Mr. Ping, tells Po the secret of his Secret Ingredient Soup.
The secret ingredient is nothing.
Po tells Tai Lung, after a Kung Fu fight, “It’s okay. I didn’t get it the first time either.” “There *is* no secret ingredient. It’s just you.”
That’s the power of belief. You can believe the water with no medicine in it works. You can believe in a greater power controlling your destiny. But, there is no secret ingredient. Or, as spoken more interestingly in The Matrix
Spoon boy: Do not try and bend the spoon. That’s impossible. Instead… only try to realize the truth.
Neo: What truth?
Spoon boy: There is no spoon.
Neo: There is no spoon?
Spoon boy: Then you’ll see, that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.
While both of these movies treat magic and near magical abilities (note that they are both “kung fu” movies) as a matter of belief, the truth is much more grounded.
No matter how much we may wish for a fairy godmother (unless you’re Harry Dresden) or a guardian angel or a letter from Hogwarts or a visit from a blue telephone box, it’s just us.
There is nothing else. In the centuries of desperately searching, there is no convincing evidence that there is anything but matter and energy and a very special form of that material. A form that can look to the heavens and wonder.
“The Cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be. Our feeblest contemplations of the Cosmos stir us — there is a tingling in the spine, a catch in the voice, a faint sensation, as if a distant memory, of falling from a height. We know we are approaching the greatest of mysteries.”
Carl Sagan (Cosmos)
That tingling isn’t god. It isn’t the calling of the spirits.
It’s wonder. It’s awe… and not a little fear of the universe in which we live. It’s scary, so we look for support from something that is more powerful and kind and takes an interest in us.
It’s our way of saying, “I matter!”
The universe doesn’t care about us or you or me. The universe doesn’t care about this small blue marble we live on. It doesn’t care about our sun, which has only been around for about 1/3 of the universe’s age and will die long before the universe grows old. Think of us as a particularly nasty boil on the left knee of the universe.
A man said to the universe:
“Sir, I exist!”
“However,” replied the universe,
“The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation.”
Even if the universe did have feelings (it doesn’t) or there was a deity that did even know we existed, it doesn’t mean that there is any help out there. It’s just us.
Think about it a second. If there was a god who intervened via prayers, what would the results really be? Two sides of a football game both pray for victory. Two sides of a war both pray for victory. A poor man prays for a dollar. A rich man prays for a life worth living. A young child prays for a toy. A young adult prays for a job. A an old man prays for the ending of pain.
In all of these cases, the result of prayer is exactly the same as if there was only them. And they stepped up. The team that trains the hardest and has a good day will win. The poor man may get the dollar. But it’s the kindness of a stranger, not god that gave it to him. A rich man can make a life worth living. That young child may get the toy due to the love of his parents or he could do some chores, earn an allowance, and buy it. That young person can do good in school, practice the interview, and get the job. The old man, well, nothing anyone can do about that kind of pain.
There’s no secret ingredient.
I didn’t get it either.
It’s just me.
I choose to be awesome. I don’t wait for someone to make me awesome.