While others search for what they can take, a true king searches for what he can give.Lion King Trailer
If you are anything like me, you are eagerly awaiting the Lion King premiere on July 18. The Lion King is one of those rare films that played a defining role in the childhood of millions of people. Part of me is hesitant to see the film because I don’t want to tamper with the inspiring imagination of the original that I formed as a child. However, I do plan on heading to the cinema and am quietly optimistic that the remake won’t do too much damage to my childhood.
With all the buzz surrounding the Lion King, I want to take a few moments to reflect on what defines a true king. That is, a king who embodies the ideals of being king, not merely the occupant of an office. In nature, the lion is termed the king of the jungle due to its stately nature and the presence of few predators. Clearly, power in some sense is central to the definition of kingship. Without power of a particular kind, nobody can lay claim to being king. In ancient times, a king exercised power over a kingdom through direct physical force. In modern times, kingdoms and monarchies have fallen out of favor. Very few people today think that kingdom is an ideal mode of governance, and the kings that do persist in developed countries are merely symbolic.
The fall of the pre-modern king has not stopped people from aspiring to embody its ideals in a modern context. We observe this same process in modern society’s treatment of the traditional warrior paradigm. While there are no traditional warriors in modern society, the term regularly appears in the domains of family, sports, school, and work. The warrior paradigm stays relevant as a metaphor for toughness, which continues to be an all-important characteristic for success in the modern world.
While the defining attribute of the warrior is toughness, the defining attribute of the king is power. For the warrior and king to have any value in modern society, one must address the question of how toughness and power are best embodied in a modern context. The behavior of the traditional warrior was often brutal and that of the traditional king exploitative. The king typically used power as a means to enrich himself rather than to serve those under his reign. The self-serving, other-damaging exercise of power (e.g. the 48 laws of power) is not an ideal worth aspiring to. The individual who behaves in this manner has a destructive effect on those around him and sooner or later will reap the fruit of his actions. People instead should look to the example of the archetypal warrior who operated by a code of ethics (Chivalry in Europe or the Way of the Warrior in Japan.) Similarly, they should look to the example of the archetypal king, who put the needs of his people above his own (Christianity).
The quote that prompted this reflection is so memorable because it captures power in its ideal form. The ancient king who ruled with an iron fist and targeted anyone who threatened his reign was in a constant state of insecurity. While an individual is striving hard to get his own basic needs met, he is hard-pressed to add value to those around him. On the other hand, the king who searches for what he can give is operating from a position of security and strength and lacks nothing.
The human race is an incredibly needy species. Unlike other animals, we do not fully develop until we reach our 20s. From the outset, babies require constant attention and cry at the first experience of discomfort. As a baby grows up, he becomes less dependent on other human beings for his emotional and material well-being. This process takes place unevenly depending on environmental factors. We can all think of people who are a great blessing to their community and at the same time others who are a strain on those around them due to excessive neediness manifesting one way or another.
The king embodies the maturity that all people should strive to develop. As a result, his attention has shifted dramatically from the self to the other–whether that other be his family, friends, or community. He is in a position to give distinguishing him from the vast majority of people around him.
The creators of Lion King got it right. The king defined as such, unlike the ancient king and traditional warrior, is an ideal that will never run its course.