I’ve Got No Strings: Pinocchio, C.S. Lewis, and the Meaning of Conscience
“I’ve got no strings
To hold me down
To make me fret, or make me frown
I had strings
But now I’m free
There are no strings on me.”
In the 1940 Disney Classic Pinocchio, Victor Records produced the classic “I Got No Strings.” Of course watching a wooden child who stumbles down a flight of stairs and heroically recovers to proclaim his freedom from being a generic puppet is pretty simplistic. The message in Pinocchio’s song can be taken at face value even; yet, Hollywood movies are still drawing back to the strings that Pinocchio has left by the wayside.
Taking note of the idea from the future based movie Gamer (2009), a futuristic movie in which death row convicts are used as real life controlled gaming soldiers; draws to the idea that control and freedom in battle makes a difference in life and death. Pinocchio’s message is conveyed by an antagonist’s human weapon who seeks to participate and fight against a wrongly imprisoned death row inmate. The willing human weapon introduces himself to the Protagonist by sharing his most recent killing only moments ago.
“Hey, Kable. Look. I just killed someone. This is the blood. Look. He’s back here. Wanna see?”
Kable dismisses the subject by referencing the man’s lack of judgement, and need for Psychological treatment. Ignoring Kable, the man declares he has been placed there to kill Kable inside the killing arena. However, there is one exception, he won’t be controlled by an outside player like ordinary convicts. This time, he will be free from outside control, because he has no strings. As such, he sings a slow melody…
“I’ve got no strings.
So I have fun.
I’m not tied up to anyone.
They’ve got strings,
But you can see
There are, no strings, on me.”
Eerily the words convey a message that not being controlled inside a killing game presents itself as a dangerous threat. Simply take a moment and think. What more could strike fear into a person’s heart than knowing another person is released with only one focus. To kill. You, however, are controlled and have no proverbial say in running or fighting for yourself, but you are controlled by an outside force to act on your behalf. ‘There are no strings on me.’
As of late, The Avengers: Age of Ultron has made light once again of Pinocchio’s melody. Ultron, an artificially intelligent being, who seeks to cure planet Earth by means of destroying humanity. Interestingly enough, Ultron is an artificially created being brought into existence by humans, and yet, Ultron desires to destroy and cure by means of killing humanity. Why? Because Ultron like that of humanity, truly believes [it] is the answer to bringing about peace. How is peace brought about? Is peace brought about by force? Control? What is necessary to have peace in the world?
Plato discussed the idea of finding peace when he verbally created a city founded upon the intangible concept of ‘Justice’ in his Republic. Even though thru twelve hours of verbal dialogue ‘Justice’ was not as palpable as Plato had hoped; like that of Plato, Ultron, Nemesis, and Pinocchio there is a resounding stringed chord that has some sort of intangible freedom/control on humanity. “You know, we spend a lot of time trying to organize the world. We build clocks and calendars and we try to predict the weather. But what part of our life is truly under our control?” (The Next Three Days, 2010). As human beings in this world, where and what are these intangible strings that seem to have a grip on each one of us?
Returning to the source, Pinocchio, we notice the character known as Jiminy Cricket, a character who is permitted to provide Pinocchio with a conscience. In Gamer the death row convicts are physically controlled, and so to speak, receive a conscience of how to act and operate inside the killing arena. Ultron himself is an artificial conscience. Can we say that every human being who has come into this world was born with a conscience? A specific standard by which humans believe every person ought to operate under?
C.S. Lewis shed light on this standard by identifying a Moral Law in his book Mere Christianity. A law that every person has which plays a role in personal beliefs. Lewis presents this Moral Law by stating: “Now this Law or Rule about Right and Wrong used to be called the Law of Nature… when the older thinkers called the Law of Right and Wrong ‘the Law of Nature,’ they really meant the Law of Human Nature…[And] a man could choose either to obey the Law of Human Nature or disobey it.” Lewis methodically pulls this Moral Law of Right and Wrong into view displaying that there is a palpable string pulling at each person to do ‘the Right thing.’ Dismissing simple misunderstandings like that of a cultural right and wrong, and even that of instinctual right and wrong. Lewis demonstrates that there is a universal truth that each individual has a conscience awareness of Right and Wrong. This awesome is not able to be dismissed but it can be disobeyed. Yet, where does it come from?
It can not be man made, otherwise it would have died away like that of other man made inventions. The phone for instance has so far advanced that the idea of a ‘home phone’ is a disappearing concept. Yet, as Lewis demonstrates, people still believe the actions of the Nazi’s committing genocide is still strongly considered a wrong action. Lewis believes, to which I agree, that this Law of Right and Wrong is originated by a Superior Being. A Being that strongly places a standard of specific actions to be correct and other actions to not be. Although many begin to object and protest that there is no other Being, or God that exists; Lewis simply asks, if there is no right and wrong that is universally placed into humanity, if there is no God that exists at all in the universe, then why would the Nazi beliefs ever be considered wrong actions? By what standard of Good can anyone use to demonstrate that their child, neighbor, or enemy has committed any offense? If no God or right and wrong exist, then why do humans declare there are no strings on them?
I’ve got no strings to hold me down, to make me fret or make me frown
I had strings, but now I’m free there are no strings on me.
Morally, are we ever really free? Or are we always compelled to evaluate Right and Wrong?
By Wes Starr