Anything But Empty

"Let your words be anything but empty."

I Know Who You Are



Big Spoilers for Moana ahead! If you haven’t seen it and want the ending to remain unspoiled for you do that! Nothing I have to say is as beautiful as the movie itself anyway!


Anyone who has spent any time with me over the last few weeks probably know I am REALLY REALLY into a couple of things right now- Moana and Hamilton. Now, obviously, I’m not alone or original in this (but I’ve always prided myself in being decidedly okay with going with popular opinion on many things- I like top 40’s, Harry Potter, and Disney, probably more then I like Indie anything).

And really, who isn’t into Hamilton? And who DIDN’T love Moana? And who DOESN’T love Lin Manuel Miranda, the beautiful, wonderful human being who birthed the gorgeous music in both of these masterpieces?


I have yet to fulfill my now deeply felt goal of seeing Hamilton (but this hasn’t stopped me from listening to it on repeat for several months, listening and watching every youtube video, television spot, or podcast interview with Miranda, and everything in between). However, I did see Moana twice in theaters, have included that in the circulation of soundtracks in my life (all two of them), and now have received a special addition DVD for my birthday!

My point is, I like the stuff I like, and I like it with all of my heart. But the things I like the most, the ones I come back to over and over, are the ones that make my heart ache, the art that subtly yet forcefully draws me closer to the person I want to be, the ones that make me immediately want to share so that I have someone to talk about it with, the ones where I immediately go online to find out what has been written, discussed or dissected about this piece of art.  A few things have done this for me; X-Men, Harry Potter, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Fullmetal Alchemist, Hamilton and, most recently Moana.  After many of these pieces of art reached their conclusion, it was almost like losing something (even if I could go back to it again and again), there’s an absence that is very keenly felt.  I can’t imagine there isn’t a book lover alive who doesn’t relate to that feeling.

I could go on and on about why Moana most recently joined the list: the tension of respecting what has been done while looking toward what can still be done, a centering of a non-romantic mutual cross-gender friendship where both learn and grow from the other, the portrayal of three generations of women empowering and affirming one another’s calling, and the list could continue.

But the place where I can continually go back to, the truth that the movie so beautifully and cleverly reminded me of, was the way that the hero triumphs. Ultimately it isn’t otherworldly powers, it isn’t physical strength, it isn’t being wittier or stronger, it is ultimately through Moana’s deeply felt humanity that the evil is vanquished, through the power of naming, of reminding, of seeing and being seen.

It is through the ability to look at another being’s pain, and anger and rightful rage, and breathing the truth of someone’s identity into that.

Moana has crossed the ocean, risked life and limb, to restore the stolen heart of Te Fiti. But when she arrives, she finds that the island is gone; there is a moment of panic before Moana looks down at the green, glowing heart in her hand and back at the horrific lava monster she had to do battle with moments before. Moana is staring down the fearsome monster, her enemy and then realizes the truth; that this is who she came to save.

“Let her come to me,” she says, beckoning the creature.  Moana walks confidently out to meet the villain, singing:

“I have crossed the horizon find you.
I know your name.
They have stolen the heart from inside you.
But this does not define you.
This is not who you are.
You know who you are.”

moana1( this the whole scene since my description can’t do it justice)

It’s one of the most beautiful moments I have ever seen in a movie. The music is gorgeous, and visually it is breathtaking. But more than anything, I was struck by how this movie, for children, in such a small moment captured such as sacred truth of being human.

We are delicate, and in a wild world so many things can turn our hearts to stone. So many things can make us bitter, and dangerous. So many things can change how we see ourselves, and then, slowly we become that, and the rest of the world sees us that way too, and the truth of who we were made to be is a whisper that we can’t hear for all the screaming.  Sometimes, even as children, we learn that the world will take things away from us, and we can feel as though it’s our very heart being ripped from our chest.

And we wonder, in the midst of pain, sadness, confusion, disbelief, depression, rage, grief, if we will ever be who we really are again- maybe we even start to just believe that this IS who I am.

And this is another truth about being human; we need each other. Sometimes people can be the ones who help turn us into the worst version of ourselves, but sometimes, the right ones press their forehead to ours, unflinchingly face all of our ugliness, and speak that truth loudly: “This is not who you are.”

There is so much power in that simple truth when we hear it, it holds the beginnings of a trembling hope; a hope that your heart isn’t lost for good, that restoration is possible.  And this is a truth I want to transform me, and how I see the people around me.

“I have crossed the horizon to find you…”

I want to be someone that loves with a dogged, patient kind of love; the ones who fight for someone time and time again.

“I know your name.”

I want to be someone that can look at a human and know that they are living into an identity that isn’t theirs, someone who knows they had a name before the world told them what it thought it should be.

“They have stolen the heart from inside you.”

I want to be someone who can recognize that there has been hurt- that something was stolen; maybe all at once, maybe a bit at a time. Someone who recognizes that, even when someone speaks and acts out of those damaged parts, and there are actions that cannot be excused, I can still affirm the grief of that loss.

“But this does not define you.”

I want to be someone who can call out the lies that we let define us; lies that devalue and dehumanize, that accuse without hope and punish without reconciliation.

“This is not who are you are.”

I want to be someone who can look into the eyes of hurt and pain, and not walk away. I want to be someone who walks beside others in the journey to having their heart healed and restored; the journey of reconciling what was lost, who they became and who they want to be. I want to be someone who holds that truth as a sacred duty; to know, to name, and to help others remember.   I want to be someone who can speak that truth over and over into the lives of those who have forgotten:

“I know who you are.”


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