To Fly

To Fly

There’s an exchange in the recent Academy Award© – winning Animated Short Documentary film, The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse, between the boy and the horse, that spoke directly to us the moment we heard it. It continues to linger in our minds, which is why we write today.  While, at first glance, this film seems to be created for children, its message transcends every age. It’s definitely a message for us all.

The horse confesses to the boy:

“There’s something I haven’t told you … I can fly … but I stopped, ‘cause it made the other horses jealous.”

to which the boy responds:

“Well, we love you whether you can fly or not.”

In other words the boy is saying:

We love you no matter who you are and what you can do or can’t do. We love you and value you just the same. We love you simply for being who you are.

We wonder.

How many of us can fly, but we’ve stopped or never felt we had the right to fly at all? 

How many of us were told that we can’t be who we really are, because others couldn’t accept who we are, what we have the ability to do, or most importantly, who we have the ability to be? 

How many of us have had to hide ourselves, our gifts, or our very being because we have not been appreciated, valued, or understood? 

How many of us have not been able to offer the world our very best because of judgment, prejudice, or fear of rejection?

How many of us have felt as if we had no value, that our gifts didn’t matter, that our very being was not valued, that we are somehow “less-than”?

How many of us?

We imagine that there will be more of us than any of us can count.

On March 12, when the Oscars were awarded, as far as we’re concerned, this short allegory of a movie well-deserved its being named the best Animated Short Film. Its quiet, gentle message about kindness and love has an empathetic beauty and simplicity throughout. Its message of inclusion, relationships, redemption, and finding home again, is deep and timeless, one that needs to be conveyed in a judging and broken world again and again. 

The Oscars awarded this month in the four acting categories exemplified that message. The roles and the movies they were in were about inclusion, relationships, redemption, and finding home again. The acting award recipients represented those themes personally. All four of the actors who won for their performances, each nominated and winning for the very first time, ranged in age from 51 – 64, – Ke Huy Quan, 51, (Best Supporting Actor), Brendan Fraser, 54, (Best Actor), Michelle Yeoh, 60, (Best Actress), and Jamie Lee Curtis, 64, (Best Supporting Actress), each started in the profession decades ago and worked hard to be respected and valued. 

Each had considered leaving the profession altogether over the years, having had fallow periods of work. Each had been underrecognized and underappreciated for their work. Each has compelling back-stories of triumph over complex and difficult life and professional circumstances.

Ke Huy Quan fled with his family from Vietnam after the fall of Saigon to the North Vietnamese, had lived a year in a refugee camp, and after several film roles as a child and young adult, didn’t get an acting job for another 20 years. Brendan Fraser has had several health challenges and surgeries related to his stunt work, accompanied by depression, and publicly announced he was sexually assaulted by a film industry insider, leading to his career being paused for nine years. Michelle Yeoh contended with many physical injuries as a result of her stunt work in many movies over the years, as well as with anti-Asian bias, ageism, and sexism throughout her career, until finally breaking the glass ceiling of all three biases with her historic Oscar win. Jamie Lee Curtis, while the daughter of famous Hollywood actors, had dealt with charges of nepotism surrounding her acting successes, and struggled with alcoholism and addiction to pain killers throughout her life, and considers her sobriety her life’s greatest accomplishment.

All four expressed great joy, evident exuberance, and deep and heartfelt gratitude for their Academy Award© – recognition. For each, it was received later-in-life and was hard-won acclaim. Each savor it in heartwarming ways. Each of them set free to fly, like they’ve never flown before.

To their credit, the Oscars this year made some tremendous inroads into recognizing people who have never been recognized or honored before, breaking down long-held barriers of inclusion: 

  • The first Asian Best Actress (Yeoh, for Everything Everywhere All at Once)
  • The first time two Asians received acting awards in the same year (Yeoh and Quan)
  • The only second Asian Best Supporting Actor (Quan, for Everything Everywhere All at Once)
  • The first black female to receive two Oscars in her career (Ruth Carter, her second, for Costume Design, for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever)
  • The first actor from Canada to be awarded Best Actor (Fraser, for The Whale)
  • The third co-directors to be awarded Best Director in 95 years (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, for Everything Everywhere All at Once)
  • The first Indian and only second non-English song to be awarded Best Song (M.M. Keeravaani, music, and Chandrabose, lyric, for “Naatu Naatu”, from RRR)
  • The first filmmakers to receive the award for an Indian film (director Kartiki Gonsalves and producer Guneet Monga, for the Documentary Short film, The Elephant Whisperers

This was a year in which the Academy made some important and much-delayed progress in both its nominations for awards and for those who received the Oscars from those nominations. But there is still much progress to be made. 

And isn’t that how it is for every institution and individual in this world? No matter how far we’ve come, how much we’ve grown, and how much we do, there is always room for better progress, for more growth, for greater recognition of gifts, and for inclusion. 

Everyone deserves equal opportunities to share their gifts and to live out their potential, to be who they are, and to be validated for who they are. For every one of us are gifts to this world, and our common and unique gifts deserve to be recognized and valued as part of the beautiful mosaic that is this world.

Everyone deserves to fly. Everyone deserves the opportunity to share their gifts to a world in need of those gifts. Everyone deserves to benefit from the wonder, specialness, and goodness of each others’ lives. Yet so many of us are held back, denied the dignity of sharing all we have been given to offer, and not fully recognized for the miracles of light and love whom each of us have been born to be. 

At the end of the film, The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse, these four new friends are reluctant to say goodbye to one another after being on a journey to find the home of the boy, who is lost. They have a poignant exchange about how they feel about one another after being on the journey together:

The fox:

“Always remember, you’re enough just as you are.”

The mole:

“I’m glad we’re all here.”

The boy:

“Home isn’t always a place, is it? So, you know all about me and you still love me?”

The horse:

“We love you all the more.”

The boy:

“That’s why we’re here, isn’t it? … To love and be loved.”

To love and be loved. Yes. We believe that is why we are all here.

We all simply want and need to be loved, in the end. For who we are. For what we have in common. For what we possess, that is unique. We want to belong. We want to be validated. We want to be whom we know we are meant to be. Imperfections, struggles, gifts, goodness, and all. All of it, brought together as gifts, for the world.

To be whom we are meant to be. Completely. Honestly. Fully. Freely. 

To fly.


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