The first movie I remember seeing is The Wizard of Oz, and all I remember from that viewing is the monkeys snatching Dorothy and scattering The Scarecrow across the forest floor. I was four. I cried like a baby. And The Wizard of Oz has been part of my life since. Its magic and music have kept me hooked, but its characters have helped me discover my self and my soul.
For years – who am I kidding? – for decades, one of my favorite questions has been who I am more like, The Scarecrow or The Tin Man. Into my twenties, I always came down on the side of The Scarecrow; I regarded my brains as my greatest asset, so he was my hero. As a budding egomaniac, I also liked the fact that The Wizard appoints The Scarecrow as the real leader of Oz before stepping into the balloon back to Kansas, “the land of E Pluribus Unum.”
As I began to discover my heart, though – the deep heart that can ache and grow at the same time – The Tin Man started to take a stronger hold. Saying good-byes, for example, slowly became transformative: not merely moments of sadness but occasions to notice and hold the love that marks every close relationship. When The Wizard presents The Tin Man his reward, he says, “Remember, my sentimental friend, a heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others.” To me, there is no finer, simpler or more gracious rule to live by. If this is where you point your moral compass, how far wrong can you go?
About six months ago, I finally understood The Wizard. Dorothy and the others have returned to the Emerald City seeking rewards for a job well done. Of course, Dorothy has held these rewards in herself the whole time – her brains, her heart and her courage. And it is she, not The Wizard, who bestows them … enabling The Scarecrow, The Tin Man and The Cowardly Lion to discover these qualities in themselves. Her final gift is to The Wizard himself: unveiling his charade and challenging him as a “bad man,” she forces his deepest confession – “No, I’m not a bad man,” he says, “just a very bad wizard.” And isn’t that the point of the whole movie?
Isn’t that what we all struggle with? … We wizard moms and wizard fathers; we wizard accountants and sons; we weary bits of wizard straw blowing earnestly and haphazardly through the forest. We wonder all the time if we’re doing our best, painfully aware when we fall short of the mark and fearful that the people around us could draw the curtain at any moment, exposing the very things that disappoint us most in ourselves.
Fortunately there is grace for all bad wizards, and it is in each of us. All we have to do is let it out – quietly with our friends and in full force the next time a Wicked Witch hurls a fistful of fire in our direction.
Next post: Philadelphia.