Monday, June 30, 2008

The Dragon Scroll

I went to see Kung Fu Panda this afternoon with a bunch of children. A movie about a big fat Panda whose one dream is to be a Kung Fu master. As we were walking out, I asked the children what they saw and what they learnt. A very animated discussion followed and they said , it was a movie about Kung fu, It was about the animals, It was about the dragon scroll, it was about the triumph of good over evil, it was about a fat Panda called Po and so on.
But the one line that made a impact on me was “Things become special, because people believe them to be special”. It all comes down to the power of belief. If we believe we can, we will and if we believe we can’t we won’t.

The following is a summary of the movie as stated in Wikipedia.

Po is a panda who works in a noodle restaurant owned by his adoptive goose father Mr. Ping. He is a kung fu fanatic with secret dreams of becoming a great master in the discipline; however his weight and clumsiness seem to make his goal unattainable; Mr. Ping hopes instead that Po will one day take over the restaurant.
The tortoise Master Oogway has a premonition that the evil snow leopard warrior Tai Lung, the former student of his own protégé, the red panda Master Shifu will escape from prison and return to threaten the Valley of Peace. While Shifu sends Zeng, a messenger goose, to Chorh-Gom Prison to have the security increased, Oogway orders a formal ceremony to choose the mighty Dragon Warrior who can defeat Tai Lung. Everyone assumes that one of the Furious Five — Tigress, Monkey, Mantis, Viper, and Crane— a quintet of supremely skilled martial artists trained by Shifu, will be chosen for this honor.
While the Five demonstrate their skills at the ceremony, Po finds himself locked outside the walled palace square. As a last-ditch attempt to get in, he makes a chair out of fireworks, which sends him flying into the center of the arena. Inspired by this sudden appearance, the old master tortoise designates Po the Dragon Warrior to everyone's shock. Despite Po's protests and Shifu's pleas to reconsider, Oogway stands by his decision.
Revolted at having Po under his tutelage, Shifu attempts to make him quit by berating and humiliating him. The Five similarly dismiss Po as a worthless interloper. Although he becomes aware of Shifu's true intentions and is deeply hurt by his heroes' disdain for him, Po endures their abuse willingly for the dream to become something more than the failure he thinks he is. Master Oogway, still certain that Po is the right choice, gives him sage advice to believe in himself. Eventually, Po endears himself to the Five (except for the disdainful Tigress) with his tenacity, good cooking, and sense of humor.
Meanwhile, Zeng's errand backfires when a tour of the prison given to him by the overly confident head of security, Commander Vachir inadvertently enables Tai Lung to escape. Tai Lung orders Zeng to send word of his arrival to Shifu. In the Valley of Peace, Oogway passes away, his final wish that Shifu train Po. However, upon learning of Tai Lung's return, and realizing that he has to face the evil warrior, Po attempts to flee. Shifu stops the panda and promises to train him if he is truly destined to be the Dragon Warrior. When Po confesses his deep self-loathing due to his obesity and his belief that he may never be a match for Tai Lung, Shifu is at a loss for a solution. Overhearing the argument between Po and Shifu, the Five take it upon themselves to intercept Tai Lung. After a long night of pondering, Shifu discovers the following morning that Po is capable of impressive physical feats when motivated by food. Realizing that he has found the right focus for the panda, Shifu leads Po to the countryside for an intensive training regime in which Po is offered food as a reward for learning his lessons properly. As Shifu hopes, Po excels with such motivation and swiftly becomes a skilled combatant.
The Five battle Tai Lung but are eventually paralyzed with a specialized nerve-striking technique. When they return defeated, Shifu decides Po is ready to face the villain and gives him the sacred Dragon Scroll, which promises great power to the possessor. When Po opens it, he finds nothing but a blank reflective surface. Stricken with despair at the scroll's apparent worthlessness, Shifu orders his students to lead the villagers to safety while he stays to delay Tai Lung from pursuing them for as long as he can.
As Po participates in the evacuation, he meets his father, who tries to cheer him up by telling him the secret ingredient of the family's noodle soup: nothing. Things become special, he explains, because people believe them to be special. Realizing that this truth is the very point of the Dragon Scroll, Po rushes off to help Shifu. At this time, Tai Lung attacks Shifu and berates him for not granting him the title of Dragon Warrior just because Master Oogway did not choose him. To remedy that, the leopard wants the Dragon Scroll for himself to complete his training. While fighting, he expresses that he gave in to his aggression and anger so he could make Shifu proud of him. For his part, Shifu is crippled by his profound feelings of guilt and responsibility for his former protégé, whom he loved and raised like a son, turning to darkness.
Tai Lung angrily discovers that the Dragon Scroll is gone, and he attempts to kill Shifu in his anger. But before he can, Po arrives and challenges him. Although Tai Lung scoffs at Po's abilities, the ensuing fight proves Po to be a formidable opponent. Despite Po's skill, Tai Lung temporarily stuns him and gains the Dragon Scroll, but is unable to understand its symbolism. Po tries to explain the wisdom of the scroll to Tai Lung, but the frustrated Tai Lung tries to subdue Po with his nerve strikes. The attack proves useless on the panda, as his nerves are difficult to find due to his body fat. Emboldened, Po counter-attacks with an improvised combat style that takes advantage of his girth to absorb and deflect the force from Tai Lung's attacks back at him. In the end, Po uses the Wuxi Finger Hold on Tai Lung (which he claims to have "figured out" on his own), and destroys him with a devastating explosion that ripples through the valley.
The Five return to the valley to investigate the cause of the explosion and find a slightly dazed but triumphant Po. Deeply impressed at Po's victory, Tigress leads the Five to acknowledge the panda as a Kung Fu master. The villagers, including Po's father, follow suit and hail Po as a hero. At first, he is overjoyed, but then Po remembers that his teacher is badly wounded, and rushes back to Shifu, who claims that he is now finally at peace. At first, Shifu appears to be dying, and Po panicks. But it turns out that he is only resting after such a trying battle .

How could a lazy , clumsy Panda win against the mighty powers of a skillful leopard? The only weapon he had in his arsenal was the power of belief. It reminded me of the Peter Pan movie I had seen a few years ago and, when Capt Hook and his cronies start singing in glee that they do not believe in fairies the fairies start disappearing and when Peter Pan overpowers them and insists on having them say that they believe in fairies, the fairies start reviving.
Of course these are fictional characters and fictional stories, but there is nothing fictional about the power of belief.
It is now being proven beyond doubt that our beliefs and our perception of our environments create out reality. I just finished watching a talk by Dr Bruce Lipton who talks about how our biology is affected by the thought programming of our beliefs. ( So if we believe ourselves to be failures, we will create circumstances in our life that will validate our beliefs. On the other hand if we believe ourselves to be successful our biology and the perception of our environment will change to fulfill our belief of success.
This is no doubt true, but explaining that to 5, 6 , 7 and 8 year olds was not exactly cake walk. When I asked the children what they believed in and if their beliefs were strong enough to come true, their answers were “of course yes”. So when the 5 year old mentioned that her belief was that she could fly from the top of the building, I really had to burst her bubble and say, “you know darling your beliefs have to be realistic, like becoming the best in your class, the best golfer, the best skier etc”. There I was in my limited belief structure already influencing the 5 year old with limiting thinking. I guess, our belief structure is so deep rooted that it will take a few thousand, maybe million years of evolution for our genetic structure to conform to the belief of flights of physical fancy. But having said that, I still believe in the power of belief and love the HSBC line “ What can be imagined can be achieved”. So for once let your flights of fancy take off and aim for the stars, so what if you fail you just might catch a cloud!!!


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