Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Lessons About Purpose From Moana: Part 6 - Gramma Tala

Today I want to look at Gramma Tala, Moana's grandmother.  According to Disney Wiki, she is a "keeper of the ancient stories."  She is an elder in Motunui who remembers how their people used to be Master Wayfinders who would sail the oceans, looking for new islands.  She has also watched her son keep the old truths buried deep, due to his own pain and trauma, as we saw in the last post about Chief Tui.  

Not only does Gramma Tala remember the old stories, but she also holds tightly to a hope that one day her people will voyage again, the way they were always meant to.  You know, Gramma Tala reminds me of a really good therapist.  Rather than give you answers to your questions, they will often ask questions, designed in a way that leads you to the answer on your own.  They require you to do the hard work to make the choices for yourself about how you feel or how you will react to a situation, but they do it in a gentle and encouraging way.  They can guide you to the answer that you may already know deep in your heart, but haven't been able to put words to.

After Moana's first failed trip past the reef, Gramma Tala walks onto the beach where Moana is inspecting an injury to her foot.  As Moana tries to hide her foot, Gramma Tala grabs it with her cane. Moana turns to the ocean and says, "He was right. About going out there. It's time to put my stone on the mountain."  This was a significant event every future chief of the village of Montunui had to complete.  It was sacred and deeply rooted in tradition.  

Gramma Tala purses her lips and looks side-eyed at Moana and says, "Okay.  Well, then, head on back." and she continues walking towards the water. "Put that stone up there."  Then she proceeds to walk into the water, where she is surrounded by stingrays.  She's knee deep in the water, dancing around with them, as if nothing in life were more important (perhaps it wasn't).  Moana watches her, confused by her words, and starts to walk away.

But Gramma Tala, like any good therapist, says just enough to make Moana turn back towards her and ask, "Why aren't you trying to talk me out of it?"

Gramma Tala responds with, "You said that's what you wanted."

"It is," Moana says, walking back toward the village again.

As she goes to put her stone on the mountain, Gramma Tala begins talking, again saying just enough to peek Moana's interest.  "When I die...I'm going to come back as one of these. Or I chose the wrong tattoo."  As she turns, you see a large tattoo of a string ray on her upper back.  

Moana is really confused at this point and says, "Why are you acting weird?"  Gramma Tala continues dancing and replies with, "I'm the village crazy lady.  That's my job."

Moana is beginning to get a little frustrated and says, "If there's something you want to tell me, just tell me!" She pauses, and then asks more cautiously, "Is there something you wanna tell me?"

She waits, hoping Gramma Tala will just tell her what to do.  Gramma Tala looks back at her and says, "Is there something you want to hear?"  It is at this point that Gramma Tala leads Moana to a cave that had been long walled off.  She explains that there is one story that Moana has never been told.  And she leads Moana to an opening that is covered in rocks.  Moana moves some rocks and says, "What's in there?"

Gramma Tala replies with, "The answer to the question you keep asking yourself.  Who are you meant to be? Go inside.  Bang the drum.  And find out."

So while she doesn't tell Moana what her purpose is, she does LEAD her to learn the answer for herself. She gives her the tools she needs to do the work and become who she was meant to be.  And I would say that a good therapist does the exact same thing!  They can help us make sense of confusion and scary things that are too big in our heads.

After Moana emerges from the cave, Gramma Tala explains why the ancient chiefs forbade voyaging, and how the darkness in their land was growing.  The plants and fish were dying, actively.  Forbidding voyaging did not stop the darkness and even into Moana's day, the darkness continues to overtake the land.  Gramma Tala explains to Moana that she was there the day that the ocean chose Moana and she tries to urge Moana to fulfill what she believes is Moana's purpose: to find Maui, deliver him across the great ocean, and make him restore the heart of Te Fiti.  

As Moana finds herself in a place of loss and grief, Gramma Tala urges her to go, saying, "You must!  The ocean chose you...there is nowhere you could go that I won't be with you...Go!"  And as Moana takes off in her canoe, a shimmering light shaped like a stingray swims underneath and in front of her, as if Gramma Tala is blessing this voyage and spurring Moana on.

If you are suffering under the weight of burdens that are just too heavy, maybe it's time to do something different.  Maybe the way you have done it all your life isn't working.  Are you ready to start something new?  To venture out into the ocean and learn who you were truly meant to be?  Not who your parents or your community or this world tells you to be.  

You are meant for so much more than feeling lost and alone in this broken world.  You can heal.  You can be whole again.  You can find purpose for your life, no matter how much of it was spent nursing the wounds the world inflicted upon you.  I know a guy.  His name is Jesus.  And he wants you to be whole.  He wants to take your broken heart and make something beautiful grow from within.  He is the only one who can come into those secret and painful places and light them up, exposing the lies and false hopes we rest in.  And only Jesus can replace them with truth and grace and a hope for the future.

10 This is what the Lord says: “You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 12 In those days when you pray, I will listen. 13 If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. 14 I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.”  - Jeremiah 29:10-14 (NLT)

We all need a Gramma Tala in our lives.  We need someone who remembers how our people used to do things (Act 2).  Because maybe we have spent too long trying to do it our own way.  Maybe it's time we stop fighting against our purpose and accept what we are meant to be.  Perhaps you don't have a Gramma Tala in your life to help you make sense of this chaos out there.  What then?  

Go to therapy.

Please don't be afraid of counseling.  Everyone needs someone who is outside of their situation to listen and offer good counsel.  I know it feels so big and so scary and you are afraid of what it will reveal or say about you or the people you love.  But listen, you can't start feeling better and truly heal if you are only ever trying to do it on your own.  There is an entire profession devoted to helping humans understand their brain and the choices they have made in their lives.  It exists because it is an absolute necessity.  

Don't prevent getting help because you are scared of how you will feel.  You have to reveal the injury to someone before they can even begin to heal it.  Stop hiding.  Stop letting your wounds just fester because you don't know any Gramma Talas.  Sometimes the hardest thing is to take that first step and admit we have a wound that won't stop growing.  To show it to someone else, so that they can help you heal.  I promise you, one of most daunting parts is exposing the wound.  Once you do that, the rest is all just part of the process.  It isn't an easy road to walk, but it is the only one that leaves you with lasting peace.

We can learn a lot about life from Gramma Tala.  Aside from her Godly counsel throughout the movie, her attitude towards life would have seemed just a little "off" to most looking at her.  She was different.  She didn't keep the same pace as the other villagers. And she was ALWAYS near the water. She couldn't resist dipping her toes in, every chance she got.  She longed for a life spent IN the water.  She didn't stay on the beach and watch as others tested the waters.  She stepped in.  She took the risk.  And she stayed in the water, even when no one else wanted to.  When others thought it foolish, she kept her feet in the water.  She was waiting in hopeful anticipation for what was to come next.  And in the end, she was allowed reprieve from her earthly journey and given her rightful home on the distant horizon.  Don't be afraid to get in the water.  Dance, just like Gramma Tala did.   

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