An Ode to Our Differences


Pocahontas’ — Colors of the Wind.

by Luiz Rosa

The more I interact with people more I see that race, gender, sexuality and religion are four of the biggest controversial themes one can try to defend in a conversation. It seems to me that many people are clinging to their own beliefs mainly because they are terrified of being wrong, in need of some kind of “solid ground” to make sense of their lives, which end up leading to close-minded ignorance. “What do you know about racism? You are white”, “You can’t talk about feminism you are a man”, “What do you know about being gay? You don’t know how hard it is”. “I can’t be with you if you are not a Christian. He is the only salvation to our dirty souls”. All around we can find selfish men and women licking their own wounds, some desperate trying to find a cause worth fighting for, to define who they are and (or) afraid of eternal punishment. People like this would do anything to hold on to their beliefs, It doesn’t matter the amount of logic and reasoning you put into discussion. It’s not wrong to be passionate about something, to show emotion and faith, however it is very common in these discussions to find people leaning towards sentimentality and losing control of reason. They simply can’t and won’t let go of their ideas, they are unable to accept new antithesis.

Recently I looked back to my past revising things I used to watch when I was a kid, by that time I just knew my passion towards movies without knowing the reason, only when I finally started to study philosophy of film I understood; Our lives need narrative to make sense, a continuum, and film can help us to understand this concept. Andrew Stanton, the creator of Toy story, Finding Nemo and Wall-e, once said in a TED talk that we connect through stories. It allows us to experience our differences and similarities, and that one of their great accomplishments is when a story naturally evokes wonder. If a well told story has a powerful message it can really sink in and I believe that Pocahontas’ song Colors of the Wind has all these grand qualities, conveying something that humanity are really in need of: Not only accepting our differences, but growing through them.

“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…”

With these first verses of the song Pocahontas states John Smith’s blind certainty about his civilized society judging her to be a savage, when he is the one with limited sight.

“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”

In the second strophe Pocahontas talks about bad faith, in the case of the movie she refers to the dominant British, so concerned with profit that they would diminish the importance of anything else. People often are so concerned with their goals and ideals that they forget the essentials, ending up acting in bad faith. For example: People that define themselves and judge others through their behaviors and beliefs, “I am heterosexual”, “I am homosexual”, “I am a feminist” “I am Christian”. All these definitions only narrow the true potential and grandeur of being human, defining oneself exclusively by a social role and belief diminishes one’s own human condition. Another good example is religious people who project God in a divine plan, so concerned with an afterlife that the end up diminishing the importance of life here and now.

“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”

We don’t get to decide who we are, many things influence and shape our personality long before we even understand the concept of being human. We can’t instantaneously change who we are, but we can recognize what drives us, our desires and wants to make sense of our lives, and if we are courageous enough we can take control of our actions in order to shape who we want to become. This is not easy, and this lack of control makes people clinging to something that would bring them the feeling of belonging and meaning. It doesn’t matter if it means to relinquish an authentic life. With time people would exclude whoever thinks differently, so desperate to have consistency on their beliefs and values that they would ignore anyone who disagrees. With this verse Pocahontas points out the importance of looking at life from different perspectives, enriching ones knowledge and capability of truly defining oneself.

“Have you ever heard the wolf cry to the blue corn moon
Or ask the grinning bobcat why he grinned
Can you sing with all the voices of the mountain
Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?…
Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?”

This strophe marks the most important message of the song, it questions our ability to work with and see the beauty within our differences. Would you be able to live in harmony with all the different values of the world? (sing with all the voices of the mountain) Would you be able to shape your own life while recognizing different beauties in all there is and drawing from them? (paint with all the colors of the wind).

“Come run the hidden pine trails of the forest
Come taste the sun-sweet berries of the earth
Come roll in all the riches all around you
And for once never wonder what they’re worth”

With this strophe Pocahontas invites the audience to discover the different paths of life, experience the goods from different tastes, and get truly involved in all the enriching experiences available all around us without looking at them with prejudice.

“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”

This verse is straightforward, Pocahontas declares that the different events and beings around the world are part who we are, like family. We are all connected, through our similarities and differences.

“How high does that 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 mountain
We need to paint with all the colors of the wind”

Back to the Chorus wrapping up the song, we have a few more lines added to it, representing the potential of human life. If we let ignorance keep ourselves or other people from perusing their dreams and living an authentic life, we will never get to see their true potential of being human. In the end our differences completes us, because without them:

“You can own the earth and still
All you’ll own is earth (dirt) until…
You can paint with all the colours of the wind”.

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