One of the most poignant Disney songs, entitled “If I Can’t Love Her”, is a melody that many may have not yet heard because it was written by Alan Menken* and Tim Rice just for the Broadway stage production of “Beauty and the Beast”, and is not in the movie we have all seen.
We know from the story that the Prince has been transformed into a Beast by an enchantress, because his arrogance caused him to turn away the enchantress, disguised as a beggar, when she was seeking shelter. Her spell could only be broken if or when he learns to love and be loved.
The Beast sings this song at a point where he realizes he must ‘engage’ his heart in order to succeed. He has just yelled at Belle, mistreated her and told her to “get out”, and so she has run away. He recognizes that he has been beastly with “not the slightest trace of anything that even hints of kindness”, a formula for a “sad conclusion”, where dreams, hope, forgiveness, beauty, passion and spirit cannot thrive without love. This song marks the turning point, where in realizing his losses, he chooses instead to love, and in so doing, we watch him in many awkward and promising moments of ‘re-learning’ to become a whole, loving and ‘transformed’ human being.
I hope you enjoy the pure poetry of this song in this rendition from youtube, and continue reading:
You might ask how do I relate this enchanting song to my painting entitled “Engaging”, of a little boy playing on the beach at sunset or sunrise?!?
A little child, while playing in the sand and water, is learning to engage his world, and in so doing, is enjoying and growing in passion. And hopefully at this young age, the child is learning to love, from his parents, his caregivers, church and surroundings. It is an extremely impressionable age, and what is learned can be the basis for his future, which is good if the learning is mostly positive.
But what happens when the learning is not positive. There are so many negative forms of engagement – alcoholism, divorce, abuse, and pornography, to name a few. We have to ask, for starters, what is a 50% divorce rate in this great country teaching the next generation – a learned inability to communicate differences well and to work through difficulties while remaining in relationship? Does a child of divorce learn to dismiss relationships, to no longer hold the preciousness of another being in higher esteem, to disconnect from love? If the child has ‘learned’ these negative behaviors, when is he/she going to unlearn them and relearn positive ones? Does our culture even acknowledge or encourage the need to relearn?
Positive engagement includes love, a desire to communicate and be in relationship, and a knowledge that others are as precious to our Creator as we are. From that, we can learn to treat others with dignity, empathy and compassion.
In the “Beauty and the Beast”, we are not told what happened in the Prince’s growing up years that made him selfish and unkind. But when I listen to this enchanting song that provides insight, I think of the predominant word “No” repeated in it…
“No beauty could move me
No goodness improve me
No power on earth, if I can’t love her”
…and I am reminded of the toddler years, when it may seem to parents like “No” is the only word in the child’s vocabulary. The toddler stage is also when tantrums seem to transform a child into a beast, where all hell breaks loose during the child’s power struggle to manipulate the world to get his own way. And like any stage of child development interrupted or arrested, for whatever reason, alcoholism, divorce, abuse, or all three, those negative behaviors will manifest in adulthood and wreak havoc at a much higher level…..unless unlearned and replaced.
There is always hope! God has given us an incredible brain that can learn, unlearn and relearn, but we need to be intentional about it. For me, this song marks a realization on the Beast’s part that he needs to stop saying “No”, to unlearn the negatives that have ultimately led to his own captivity, and risk letting love into his heart, be humble and willing to engage and relearn positives. And as the Beast recognizes all that he has lost by saying “No”, we see a turning point in these inspired lyrics. And we too, by taking the liberty of allowing some of the “No’s” to drop from the lyrics like falling petals of a rose, may sense the positives blossoming forth, as the seemingly impossible becomes possible, to experience how powerfully love is transformative, as the last petal falls and leads us to the rediscovery, relearning, and reaffirming of our God-given Hope within:
“…Beauty could move me
…Goodness improve me
…Passion could reach me
…Lesson could teach me
…Spirit could win me
…Hope left within me”
To me, that is the beauty of the song and the heart of the painting!
* Alan Menken is the Academy Award recipient for the Best Music, Original Score of the 1991 movie of “Beauty and the Beast”
Purchase “Engaging” at www.BegleyArt.com