“Hakuna Matata” and the Philosophy of Unwillingness


Hakuna Matata. This famous phrase from the ’90s Disney movie The Lion King is more than the theme of a catchy tune sung by a lion, a warthog, and a meerkat; it’s a philosophy on living that pervades the modern world. Its basic tenets come from understanding that bad things happen and that there is nothing you can do about them. In acknowledging this, the solution is to turn inward, seek one’s own ideal life, and forget about all the problems around you, even if they affect you directly.

The selfish idealism and inward-turning of Hakuna Matata is a worldview that is ultimately unrealistic and ultimately un-Christian. We see daily throughout our world the effects of such thinking: the infidelity of spouses faced with difficulties in marriage, the self-seeking instantaneous gratification sought in pornography, and the attempt to counteract a lack of real relationships by spending hours texting. This unwillingness to look at ourselves as we really are, as incomplete creatures, often manifests itself in the denial of the reality all around us. In the end, we begin to live a lie.

Never to look out and to stare into the reality of one’s life is never to look through reality and our own history through the lens of God’s providence. We do not want to face the challenges that the Gospel and authentic humanity place before us. It would be much easier to turn a blind eye toward what we see in front of us and cover our struggles and difficulties with whatever we can get our hands on. In contrast to the Psalmist, the lot marked out for me is not my delight (Ps.16:6).

If one were to look at the saintly martyrs of the Church we would find a much different story. The occasion for martyrdom often presents itself within a severe persecution of the Church. The mass murdering of Christians is an evil thing. Yet, the martyrs embrace this evil act gracefully. The difference between Christianity and Hakuna Matata is the difference between willingness and unwillingness. Christians are willing to embrace the struggles and difficulties of life because Christians are realistic. The willingness to live a Christian life is therefore the willingness to embrace authentic humanity and all that it entails.

A Dominican friar once said to me: “Everyone is going to sweat. You might as well spend your time sweating under the cross.” To sweat is the human condition; being under the cross is our willingness. Remember, Christ came to us and chose the cross to enter into this sorrow with us. Our struggles are never taken away; we cannot deny this. They will be with us until the day we die. But if we look upon ourselves honestly, we will see that if we choose to embrace who we are—to embrace our humanity filled with all its struggles—we need only to turn outward toward Him who willingly turned toward us.

Image: Flickr – Oliviaclisby, Hakuna Matata

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Br. Michael Weibley entered the Order of Preachers in 2010. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, he graduated from Walsh University in North Canton, Ohio where he studied history and philosophy. Br. Michael is currently pursuing his S.T.B and M. Div. degrees at the the Dominican House of Studies in preparation for ordination to the priesthood. On DominicanFriars.org