The Mysticism of Frozen II: Part 3, The Philosophical Problem of Change

The characters of Frozen II sing about how “some things never change,” even amid the changing world. Mysticism unveils those unchanging enduring things, the greater Whole that is also One and Love.

(This is the continuation of a series of articles on the mysticism of the film Frozen II. Also see part 1, and part 2.)

We return from the lullaby to a much later time when Anna and Elsa are grown up. Queen Elsa seems to be reminiscing about that lullaby from her childhood, when she hears the four-note Dies irae for the first time, a kind of mystical calling from an unknown source. No one else can hear it but her. This seems to follow the pattern of the Hero’s Journey, when the Hero “hears the call,” beckoning them into adventure, from the known world into an unknown region, into a place they’ve never been. This “unknown” will be featured in an upcoming song.

But first, we catch up with Anna and Olaf. A leaf is blown from Elsa’s window across the kingdom of Arendelle to where Anna is walking along a path, perhaps prefiguring the “wind” of the “Spirit” that they will come to know later as Gale. The magical snowboy, Olaf, is resting in a pumpkin patch, and Anna joins him. They immediately delve into a deep conversation on the philosophical problem of change, impermanence and permanence, which is addressed in many Eastern spiritual traditions such as Buddhism and Hinduism.

Olaf says, “How I wish this could last forever.” He then grabs the leaf and poetically says, “And yet, change mocks us with her beauty.” We often wish things would stay the same, that we could hold onto some idyllic time or condition or situation, but it changes nonetheless, and the change can be a beautiful thing, as the colorful autumn leaves mark another season passing. But change can also be terrifying like the sands of time falling through our fingers, and so we often seek and grasp after that which is enduring and unchanging, that transcendence which always is, what the Greek philosopher Parmenides called unchanging “being.”

Olaf remarks to Anna, “do you ever worry about the notion that ‘nothing is permanent’?” This is prominent Buddhist concept, also called anicca, one of the three marks of existence. This points to the apparent absence of any permanence or continuity in our everyday experience of life or reality. It also goes back to the Greek philosopher Heraclitus and his notion that “everything flows,” and also related to Whitehead’s process philosophy. Everything is in continual change and motion. Nothing seems to stay the same. Things come into being, have a transient or temporal existence, and then dissolve away. Everything in this conditioned existence, without exception it seems, is in this continual flow, flux, aging, change, transformation, becoming, etc. It is the observation that nothing lasts, everything decays, and everything eventually dies. It can be a real downer. This is what Olaf is “worried” about.

Anna says she isn’t worried about such things, because of her relationships, her friends, loved ones, and that she’s not alone anymore (this is a reference to the first film when she wasn’t in close contact with her sister Elsa and was thus lonely and sad). When all things around us are changing, it is such human relationships and connections, and even non-human animal and nature relationships, communion with the greater reality, which can bring a sense of belonging to something more real, more fundamental, more whole, and more enduring than our independent lonely separate finite self. This is deeply healing.

Aristotle once said, “the whole is something besides the parts,” often paraphrased as “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts,” meaning that wholes are something far more than their constituent parts. When we realize those wholes, and perhaps the greatest Whole, the One, we may realize the Real itself, that which always is. While the parts may change, the Whole stays the same, and that may be the One, the Love, the deepest interrelationships and holistic identity that the film is beginning to point towards. Mysticism is always trying to draw us back into that Wholeness (Holiness), that One, that greater Reality, from our seemingly disparate dualistic separate realities and bifurcated identities in our minds.

They then sing “Some Things Never Change” about those things that Anna relies on as “certain certainties,” which points to these types of connections.

Anna has faith that amid all the apparent change and impermanence of things, “some things stay the same,” such as:

  • like the feel of your hand in mine
  • like how we get along just fine
  • like how I’m holding on tight to you

She sings, “some things are always true.” Of course, these things are not literally unchanging or permanent. They will come to an end one day. But I think the song is pointing to the transcendent quality of relationships and connection that is the One, the Singularity, the Eternal, the Spirit, the God of Love, which binds everything together in one Uni-verse, and that includes us all within it. The greatest relationship is actually not relationship at all, because the two realize themselves as One. The great Sufi mystic Rumi once said, “Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along.”

The second verse sung by Kristoff seems to emphasize this Love that endures, as he plans his marriage proposal to Anna. For Kristoff, “some things never change” too, “like the love that I feel for her.” The Love, that attraction, that draws us toward the other, is Divine. It is like the gravitational attraction of all mass toward each other, and toward the Singularity that exists in black holes.

Elsa sings the bridge of the song, noting how the “winds are restless,” and how she seems to be hearing a call. Something is unsettling and needing resolution, but she doesn’t want anything to change. Everything seems to be perfect, now, but she “can’t freeze this moment,” so the best she can do is “seize the day,” carpe diem. Instead of worrying about the future, she is going to make the most of the present moment.

This also shows up in a lot of mysticism, realizing the present is the time we live in, and we can live in no other time. This is life, here, now, now, now, and we can be in no other moment. We often find ourselves ashamed of our past, or worried about the future, but we only live in the present, and so mysticism tries to help us realize that, that Life is lived now, right now, right here. This is where and when the Divine Spirit flows, this “eternal now,” this Parousia of the Present now of Life.

In the third verse, Olaf seems to look directly at the audience and says “you all look a little bit older.” He is noting how we all aged from the first film to the second, how kids age and become youths, how youths become adults, and how adults age. This is one of the things that changes and is impermanent. We age, we are continually changing, growing up, becoming more mature, and growing old. Olaf, in particular, notes this repeatedly. Living is also growing, aging, and eventually dying. But we fear death, and mysticism gives us the tools to conquer this fear as we realize deeper and more holistic Divine realities that transcend this changing impermanent temporal nature of our mortal lives.

The song then says, “we’ll always live in a kingdom of plenty, which stands for the good of the many.” This is also what mysticism tries to help us realize, that the Earth is full, and there is enough and to spare (D&C 104:17; Ps. 33:5), that selfishness is not the Way, but sharing of this abundance that we have here that has been Gracefully given to us all. It is not given that some should possess far more than others, which is one of our greatest downfalls as humanity (D&C 49:20). This Earth is a “kingdom of plenty,” and those who have awakened to it “stand for the good of the many,” not of the one, the few, or the egoic self.

The song ends, “Some things never change. Turn around and the time has flown. Some things stay the same. Though the future remains unknown. May our good luck last, may our past be past. Time’s moving fast, it’s true. Some things never change. And I’m holding on tight to you.” Again, the song notes the passing of time, and yet some things seem to transcend time. This reminds me of a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson:

These roses under my window make no reference to former roses or to better ones; they are for what they are; they exist with God to-day. There is no time to them. There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence. Before a leaf-bud has burst, its whole life acts; in the full-blown flower, there is no more; in the leafless root, there is no less. Its nature is satisfied, and it satisfies nature, in all moments alike. There is no time to it. But man postpones or remembers; he does not live in the present, but with reverted eye laments the past, or, heedless of the riches that surround him, stands on tiptoe to foresee the future. He cannot be happy and strong until he too lives with nature in the present, above time.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson,

If we can transcend time, as Emerson points to here, we can also transcend the change that surrounds us, and realize that “some things never change.” There are some qualities of Reality, particularly what we might call Divine, the Transcendent, the Eternal Forms, which are permanent, unchanging, enduring, always, being, living, existing. They never change. They transcend the changing, impermanent nature of this conditioned existence, and they are what mystical experience reveals or unveils. When we can get out of our constantly changing and conditioned thought-filled mind and deeply realize the nature of the present moment of consciousness, as it really is, and who we really are in this eternal now, we too can live “above time,” realizing the One that’s our true Self and Love its Self.

This deep realization of one’s core identity and its union in Love seems to be what much of this film is about, and it is what makes it thoroughly mystical.

(Continue to Part 4)

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