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Friday, April 7, 2017

WHY THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME

Growing up, The Wizard of Oz was an Easter tradition.  We would spend the weekend at my grandparents' in Syracuse and Sunday would be this whirlwind of activity—finding eggs, going to church, slamming down an extremely late brunch or very early dinner (never sure which it was meant to be) before piling into the car to make the 4 hour drive home in time for the Wizard.

At the time the film was made it was a technological wonder, what with its black and white world morphing into Technicolor, plus all those flying monkeys!  Now we have CGI that puts all of that to shame, but somehow doesn’t diminish the wonder we feel when Dorothy opens the door from her muted world into the magical and brightly hued Land of Oz.  We are just as amazed as she when Glinda the good witch floats down to greet her in an oversized soap bubble, and the charm of the Munchkins is a never-ending well. 

As we follow Dorothy on her journey through this land of many enchantments, we share her fantastical experiences without ever questioning her goal:  to get back home again.  Even though home is only in black and white!  Without Munchkins!  Why is that?

Dorothy has run away because she is unhappy.  She feels insignificant yet overburdened, dismissed and yet persecuted; who can’t relate to that?  Her unhappiness leads her down a path (or yellow brick road, if you will) where she encounters many new things, both good and bad.  She forms some relationships that will profoundly change her (check out that makeover if you don’t believe me!). 

Dorothy and these companions are led to believe that all of their “problems” can be solved by an all-powerful Wizard, necessitating a perilous journey to enlist his help.  But when they finally meet the goal of seeing the Wizard, he challenges them to further earn his assistance.  He sends them on a dangerous mission, facing almost certain death at the hands of the Wicked Witch.   

Through their camaraderie, persistence and good fortune, they succeed in slaying the villain and return triumphant for their prize.  And here is where we discover the truth…(spoiler alert!) there is no Wizard.   Just a regular snake-oil salesman from Kansas.  But even he is wise enough to see that Dorothy and her friends already had the gifts they risked their lives to acquire.  The Scarecrow is smart, the Tin Man is kind, and Lion is brave.  Even Dorothy had the power to go home at any time; she just needed to click her heels together and commit to her goal.

There comes a time for all of us when we have a crisis of faith.  Sometimes it manifests as rebellion (as with Dorothy), sometimes it manifests as a mid-life crisis…and sometimes both and several points in between.  It all depends on how serious you are about being happy. 

During these crises, we want to be anywhere but where we are and frequently anyone but WHO we are.  Like Dorothy, we may be angry with our caretakers or parents, seeing them as barriers to happiness or self-expression.  Or we may blame a spouse, a bad boss, or a run of bad luck for why we are so miserable. 

So many times, we, like our heroine, think a change of scenery will help, or new relationships that don’t feel so restrictive, or a new job that doesn’t suck quite as much as the one we have now. Many of us just sit in this place feeling trapped and resentful. 

But some of us go off on an “quest”.  We leave home or we get into another relationship or find a new job, etc.  We might travel, see the world, meet new people and have new experiences.  Most people will fight a wicked witch or two along the way, fend off some nasty, apple throwing trees and make a good friend.  But whether we cherish our journey or curse it, ultimately we end up with the essential truth we have heard too many times to count:  wherever you go, there you are. 

We are encouraged in this life to spread our wings and find our bliss; to go on adventures and take some chances.  We have good luck and bad luck; sometimes we win and sometimes we fail and sometimes we fail spectacularly.  But at any moment on this journey we are invited to look within ourselves and understand that there is nothing to be added on to us that makes us any greater (or less) in truth and in spirit. 

Like the scarecrow, we don’t believe we are smart, so we may go through a lot of schooling and experience to make us feel so.  Like the Tin Man, we do not believe we are lovable, so we may enter into many relationships hoping to find that validation from someone else.  Like the Lion, we do not believe we are brave, so we may put ourselves into situations and predicaments where risky behavior or damage makes us feel like survivors. 

But as Michel de Montaigne once wrote, “Upon the loftiest throne in the world, man still sits upon his own ass.”  And there you are.

This is not to discourage travel, education, adventure or even risk…these are all a valuable part of life.  But with journeys of the soul, you must always first consider the source of your unhappiness; that is, YOU.   Before you go off down your yellow brick road, make sure you know who your travelling companions are going to be.  Will they be self-doubt, insecurity and desperation?

And be clear about what you are seeking.  If you think a new relationship, new job, new car or a facelift is the answer to your discontent, chances are good you don’t even realize what the question is.    You have nothing to prove to anyone but yourself. 

Bottom line:  if you cannot solve the "problem" in Kansas, chances are you will not have much better luck in Oz.  So before you get into a street fight with some winged monkeys, be very clear with yourself about why you are doing it.   Can you believe you are already smart, lovable and brave?  Can you take that on faith, or do you need to prove it?   

In the end, Dorothy returns to the place where she thought she was unhappy only to realize it is where she wanted to be all along:  home.  Our goal is to be at home in our own skin, in our own soul.  So if you want to see the Emerald City, go for it!  Have a great time!  Just remember that you will find yourself there and anywhere else you go.  So first make sure you love the person you are going to be travelling with. 


 

 

 

 

 

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