Keep in mind that THIS is what happens when you take someone with a dual-degree in English and Religious Studies who went on for an MA in English, and then you have her read The Lorax a hundred times.
If you’re having trouble remembering, The Lorax is the Dr. Seuss story with the environmental message: an individual called The Onceler comes to a beautiful field and then proceeds to strip it bare, pollute it and drive off the animals with his manufacturing ways. The Lorax shows up early and famously says “I speak for the trees” and then continues to serve as nature’s mouthpiece until the end.
At the final pages, the deforestation is complete, the animals are dead or gone, and the sky and water are corrupt. At this point, the Lorax “heisted himself by the seat of his pants” and effectively ascends into Heaven.
This morning it occurred to me (as my Patient Husband read to Kiddo#3) that by having the Lorax ascend into Heaven, Dr. Seuss has effectively turned him into a kind of Christ-figure, an environmentalist messiah preaching a gospel of environmental conservation.
In this case, rather than the Christ-figure dying, what’s been put to death is nature. Therefore you have the Good Friday of nature’s death followed by the Ascension Thursday of the Lorax leaving. On the last page, the Onceler asks the little boy to whom he’s told this story (as an apostle of the Lorax?) to plant seeds in the hopes that the Lorax (and nature) can come back. Clearly a hope of some kind of parousia.
Two problems presented themselves: first, what’s conspicuously missing is Easter Sunday. And secondly, I’m pretty sure that Dr. Seuss was not Christian; I believe he was Jewish.
Although, I realized, if he was Jewish, that makes sense. I’m told that in Judaism, the belief is that the Messiah will come not to rescue the world from the pits of despair (versus the Christian notion: Jesus will return when things can’t get any worse). Humanity’s duty is to restore the Earth to Eden, and then the Messiah will come as our rightful ruler.
Ah, now that’s fitting better. Nature dies (the fall from Eden) and the Lorax ascends into Heaven (as a fiery Elijah the Prophet) and now, if we can restore nature to its rightful wholeness, perhaps we can induce him to return. And once Elijah returns, he’ll prepare the way of the Messiah.
After all, what is Elijah, but a voice crying out in the wilderness? And the Lorax is all about declaring the wilderness a holy thing.