Mindfulness Lessons from a Rat
Ratatouille, that is.
I re-watched it recently and unexpectedly became super engaged in it. I've seen it a handful of times before, but I started understanding the movie in a different way; seeing it through a more mindful lens. I think it was when I realized the role of the critic is a harsh, closed-off, sarcastic grump named Ego. That's when I got hooked. I surely must've realized the connection before, but I think I was more interested in and excited by being able to realize new connections by re-watching the whole movie. Sorry nap time, this wins.
I'll recap a few parts of the story in broad stokes in case you don't know... SPOILERS AHEAD in case you don't want to know.
We're introduced to the late Chef Gusteau, all star chef whose restaurant began to struggle after receiving a less-than-flattering review from acclaimed critic, Anton Ego. Alfredo Linguine, Gusteau's long estranged son, a dopey, clumsy, gangly, unseasoned kitchen employee and a furry four-legged prodigiously talented rat chef name Remy both find themselves new to town and join forces. When the Remy (the rat) hides in Linguine's poofy chef hat, he can control his motions and cook through him.
Long story short, Linguine's success starts to go to his head, and eventually he is confronted by the critic, Ego, leading to the showdown. The heart of the message comes when Ego orders a plate of 'perspective' from Linguine. He's served a plate of Ratatouille, which takes him back to warm, happy childhood memories. At first, I thought the 'perspective' came with the fact that he was served a peasant's dish amidst such high expectations in a gourmet environment. But the real serving of perspective comes when Ego sees the kitchen and learns who just prepared his transcendent meal.
Ego's name isn't the only one that matches his character.
Remy is a traditional French name meaning Oarsman. It might be a loose parallel, but you could liken maneuvering in a boat with oars to the Remy's act of controlling Linguine. For the literal translation, Remy does find himself paddling through the sewers at one point ;) They're each the captain of their respective boats. Haven't we all felt like we weren't really in control of a situation when thinking about it in retrospect? I've caught myself saying, "I feel like a different person now vs. then" a lot.
Alfredo Linguine. Old English name combining elements meaning Elf + Counsel, the name essentially means one with supernatural powers capable of providing advice. If we take a sort of buddhist or general mindfulness approach to interpreting this, isn't that definition basically who we all want to be? Mindfulness fuels compassion. I interpret 'providing advice' as being open/read to help; being an empathic, compassionate person. As far as supernatural powers, embracing consciousness and realizing the benefits, can feel almost mystical, described by some as 'a superpower'.
I've seen the movie before. But I never realized these aspects of it. I didn't realize some of the things in the movie, I think, because they weren't yet in me. Just like how we project our expectations onto people we meet to form assumptions and put up our guards, We do the same with movies. We think, "That's it.. Nothing else to see here". Before this was just a kids movie that's an impressive representation of a working kitchen to me. This time around, Ratatouille revealed itself as a story about a young man learning how to work in harmony with 'the little chef in his head' all the while stressing openness to new/differing perspectives. That's me.