Two years after “Star Wars” and a year before the 1980 “Flash Gordon” live action film, (mainly remembered for its theme song by Queen) a new version of Flash Gordon filled my Saturday morning TV screen. With bright neon laser-gun effects and lifelike animation of various aliens, “The New Adventures of Flash Gordon” was like watching “Star Wars” on TV. But another feature that made it stand out from other cartoons was its powerful message of unity.
In the first episode, a human crew of futuristic astronauts – Flash Gordon, Dale Arden, and Dr. Hans Zarkov – journey to the distant planet of Mongo to warn its inhabitants that their planet is coming dangerously close to Earth. But they’re captured by strange creatures and dragged toward a distant castle in a large bubble-cage. Two other alien prisoners, a forest archer and a Lion Man, explain that they’re all prisoners of Emperor Ming, the cruel overlord who rules Mongo. Yet they seem to hate one another almost as much as they hate Ming.
“Every race on Mongo is an enemy of every other race,” grumbles Thun, the Lion Man.
“Each man stands alone on Mongo,” adds Prince Barin, the tree archer. “As you’ll learn. If you survive, Earth-Man.”
When Flash and the others finally meet Ming, they learn that he’s aware of Mongo drifting toward Earth. In fact, he’s causing it, in order to weaken Earth with earthquakes and tidal waves so that he can invade and conquer it. (How does Ming manage to steer his planet through space? I don’t know; it’s a cartoon!) So Ming has made himself an enemy of everyone on Earth, as well as everyone on Mongo. The epitome of a common enemy!
Flash and Thun escape, but Dale and Dr. Zarkov remain prisoners in the castle. While struggling to survive Mongo’s wastelands and form a plan for rescuing the others, Flash and Thun encounter another alien race: the Hawk Men. Once again, Thun shows utter disgust for the race, reminding Flash that all races on Mongo are enemies to each other.
Flash has had it. “No wonder a tyrant like your Emperor Ming rules you,” he chastises Thun. “… if you won’t unite to stand against him!”
People like to talk about unity. It’s a fun word, and it sounds noble. Yet it seems like a lot of people have trouble grasping its true meaning. Many people think that being unified means agreeing with one another. So they don’t allow anyone in their group to enter into deep discussions of topics which some members might disagree on. After all, they think, they must preserve unity by “keeping the peace”.
But that’s not unity. Real unity isn’t always peaceful, and it has little to do with agreement. In fact, those who feel they need to agree with others in order to work together will have a difficult time achieving unity.
Unity requires commitment, not agreement. People choosing to work together in order to achieve a shared goal. It doesn’t require that those people also share the same political views, religious beliefs, or cultural practices. Don’t expect others you work with to share your opinions, and don’t worry that you’ll have to share theirs in order to remain together. If you’re truly unified in purpose, you can discuss different views without your team projects falling apart. And if you’re truly committed to a friendship, you don’t need your friends to think like you do in order to enjoy spending time together. You can agree to disagree, and respect one another’s views without having to adopt them.
“Because we’re all in this together,” Flash answers. “And by sticking by each other, well … maybe we can accomplish something.”
Having seen Flash’s commitment to unity demonstrated time and again, Thun experiences a change of heart. “You spoke of this before, standing together against the common foe. Now I understand your words, Flash Gordon.”
Disagreements are not obstacles to unity and teamwork. They’re priceless opportunities to create and solidify genuine unity. If you can move past your own opinions in order to show respect and acceptance of someone else, you’ll experience a new sense of shared commitment and make real progress together.
Check out The New Adventures of Flash Gordon at amazon.com!
Thursday, December 31st, 2009