Updated: Aug 30, 2021
The 1971 satirical children’s book The Lorax was written by the now-infamous Dr.Seuss to seemingly raise awareness about the environment. As well as a warning, it serves as a symbolic cautionary tale about a fatalistic viewpoint of where society may be headed. The Lorax resurfaced on my radar once I had read that it had been banned in several schools due to the fear of the next generation having a general disdain towards the logging industry. I know what I said, I beg you to do the research yourself, I’m sure you will be just as confused as I was. I do in fact believe that this book has a far deeper meaning than meets the eye, but my interpretation is nowhere near the delusional fear of some midwesterner in a flannel chopping trees.
As far as I can tell, the main environmental message portrayed by those who read The Lorax is to help those understand that all actions have reactions. All things are connected. No matter how small something like a Truffula seed may seem, nothing is insignificant. Everything you do leaves an imprint on the world. What you plant and where you plant decides what grows. When something grows, something dies. The Once-ler had to destroy all, for the boy to bring it all back. For every lumberjack, there is an arboriculturist. There are no random acts.
"you can no more separate one life from another than you can separate a breeze from the wind"
-Blue Man, The Five People you Meet in Heaven
This content critique is far more than an environmental caveat. Below I will take my favorite quotes from The Lorax and discuss a few of the ideas that I feel fit several walks of life, and I will use a far broader brush to portray the picture that I understood. So let's paint.
Nobody is splitting the atom here, I think anyone can deduce this quote represents potential. Potential is an idea that exceeds environmental ideals, but it still is appropriate in that topic of discussion. Looking at a hideous dirt lot and thinking "hmm that has the potential to be a beautiful lusciously green park one day" is something to be admired. Just ask the writers of Parks and Rec, it only took them 125 episodes to come full circle with that idea.
Potential truly is a wonderful idea, the joy an elementary teacher must have looking at a classroom full of kids is unfathomable. Unfortunately, there are two sides to a coin. There are many who will dig a shallow broad planting hole for a Truffula tree, and grow something worthwhile. Then there are those whose fruitions never come to be, and leave a hole in the ground completely empty. A symbol of what could have been. Just because you can't imagine exactly what the tree may look like, doesn't mean it can't become the most magnificent tree in the forest. Every person born is a gift, worry about hardships of growth some other time, because today you have a job to do. And the Jobs not finished. The boy in the story learned quite quickly that the forest needed him to return to glory, even if he did not need the forest.
This quote conveys the ever so important mnemonic power that it is YOU who has autonomy over your life, and the emotions elicited from events.
I wonder how many times in my life I screamed at my mom “you made me do this!” and 100% of the time it was followed by “nobody can make you do anything!” -Lesson from Elena Anne #540.
It’s always easy to take the coward's way out when a situation may require critical thinking or anything more than a prompt innate analysis. Sometimes it may feel like it makes sense to abdicate all blame and look for external attributions. But It’s a horrendous coping skill, and a masquerade to feel in control of something you have deemed uncontrollable. It’s the classic psychological idea of self-serving bias.
Learn from the once-ler. Don’t seek out information and use it in ways that advance your self-interest, with no regard for anyone else. Exercise your freedom of choice, lean the right way.
Unless you put the responsibility of the world on your back, then nothing is going to change. It’s not. You have to come to terms with the certainty that life is full of those who want to deforest your place where the grass is green and the ponds are still wet. You and only you must step up to the challenge of fully understanding how awful things might go if you don’t care a whole awful lot. Putting yourself into such a position can be an abhorrent thing, but that is nothing compared to sitting there and watching your forest be destroyed one tree at a time. Acceptance of this responsibility must be done in a willful matter, figurative self-immolation is needed to bear the weight of the forest. Put your cross on your back and walk up the highest hill. Put the S on your chest and fly into the light. Accept the pain in saving all the creatures of the forest, and pull strength where there is none. You have no choice if you want to live a life full of responsibility. Be the Lorax, and speak for the trees.
We all are the Once-ler in several aspects of our lives. It's okay to make decisions that lead to an abandoned factory, it's what makes you human. Just make sure when you come out, you look a little bit more like the guy with the orange mustache.