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dorothys kiss

Since the previous post ended with a kiss, it is only fitting that this post continues with a reflection on the kiss.  While some criticize the use of such a device because they deem it a cheap and over-used literary trick, I side with those who say that such a device is a traditional symbol in telling the story of a heroic journey.

Unlike the mark of Cain that cursed him on his journey, a mark placed by the hero’s mentor is meant to tell the world that this person has been blessed and is in essence, off limits.

That doesn’t mean that the hero is not going to be challenged or even tempted and tormented by evil-doers, it is basically a warning to the evil-doer to tread very carefully.

Dorothy, like most of us, is not aware that she has been blessed with a special kiss that becomes a mark on her forehead. However, she can’t help but feel fortified by this kiss. Her fears might not have been kissed away, but she has not been paralyzed. She’s willing to take that first step on the yellow brick road.

Oz movie fans are familiar with the scene of Dorothy stepping foot on the yellow brick road. It is an iconic moment. But, how many of us stop and think about how and why the yellow brick road began right then and there where Dorothy landed?

Is it a coincidence? Or does it simply mean that there is a similar place in all four of the sections of Oz?

Lancelot, of Round Table fame, encouraged his fellow knights to embark on a journey. In this case the journey was to start at the edge of a deep-dark forest. Today there would have been a specific starting point where all travelers were expected to enter the forest.

That’s not what Lancelot had in mind.  He told the knights that each of the knights was to enter the forest at that place meant for him and him alone. In other words, we all need to begin our journey at out starting point, not where anyone else starts their journey.

Dorothy was starting her journey where her unique journey was meant to begin. It was no coincidence that Dorothy’s Yellow Brick Road was where it was.

All too often we don’t follow our Yellow Brick Road.

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Most classical heroic journeys begin with a call that more often than not is ignored.  But in Dorothy’s case there was no external call that she could refuse to answer.  I believe that is the case for most of us.  Instead of a call, we get catapulted into our journey.

In Oz, the book, the twister was the mechanism. A natural phenomenon with supernatural consequences. It took Dorothy out of her gray life and plopped her right in the middle of a world bursting in color.

The fact that the vehicle that transported Dorothy from Kansas to Oz landed on a force of evil made her journey that much more complicated. Had she made a soft landing in a field of flowers, Dorothy’s journey would not have been life-altering enough.

Although Dorothy didn’t have the proverbial mean bone in her body, her goodness had never been challenged. As is the case for most mere mortals.

The forces of evil were to play an important role in Dorothy’s journey.

When Dorothy was greeted by a woman, described in the book as an older woman whose “face was covered with wrinkles, her hair was nearly white, and she walked rather stiffly.” The first ting she said after welcoming her to Oz was to thank her for killing the Wicked Witch of the East. She didn’t hesitate to say that she had freed them from the bonds that held them as slaves to the witch. She also told Dorothy that she was the good witch from the north.  (Keep in mind that she was not Glinda. More on that later in the heroes journey.)

We are all held in bondage of some sort, and the only way to shake off the bonds is to go on the journey. But, unless the journey has a destination or purpose it is not a journey.

Dorothy’s gut reaction to her unsettling surroundings was to get home.  Told to put on the silver slippers (I’m talking about the book here), the Good Witch of the North tells her “sorry kiddo, but there’s no way you can get out of here. You’ll have to stay with us.” (That’s what she said, more or less.)

According to Oz the book this is what transpired:

Dorothy began to sob at this, for she felt lonely among all these strange people. Her tears seemed to grieve the kind-hearted Munchkins, for they immediately took out their handkerchiefs and began to weep also. As for the little old woman, she took off her cap and balanced the point on the end of her nose, while she counted “One, two, three” in a solemn voice. At once the cap changed to a slate, on which was written in big, white chalk marks:

“LET DOROTHY GO TO THE CITY OF EMERALDS”

The little old woman took the slate from her nose, and having read the words on it, asked, “Is your name Dorothy, my dear?”

“Yes,” answered the child, looking up and drying her tears.

“Then you must go to the City of Emeralds. Perhaps Oz will help you.”

“Where is this city?” asked Dorothy.

“It is exactly in the center of the country, and is ruled by Oz, the Great Wizard I told you of.”

“Is he a good man?” inquired the girl anxiously.

“He is a good Wizard. Whether he is a man or not I cannot tell, for I have never seen him.”

“How can I get there?” asked Dorothy.

“You must walk. It is a long journey, through a country that is sometimes pleasant and sometimes dark and terrible. However, I will use all the magic arts I know of to keep you from harm.”

And then:

The Good Witch of the North came close to Dorothy and kissed her gently on the forehead. Where her lips touched the girl they left a round, shining mark, as Dorothy found out soon after.

Let the heroic journey begin.

grey kansas

Contemplation caused by discontent. This is what I believe precedes the first step in any journey. Sometimes the discontent is obvious. Sometimes discontent leads to contemplation. And sometimes after a period of contemplation the individual is ready to take the first step on a journey into the unknown.

Sometimes, however, the discontent lies buried deep inside us.  We feel it, but we can’t give it a name. Many of us force the feeling deeper inside us because we are afraid to let it rise to the surface.

In Oz, the book, Dorothy’s discontent is the buried kind, unlike the Discontent evidenced in Oz the movie. In the movie Dorothy is unhappy with her condition in life. The farm hands have dismissed her. Aunt Em is too busy counting chicks to pay attention to Dorothy.  Strike up the band and begin “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”  Dorothy’s lament ends with the question “why, oh why, can’t I.”

There are no lamentations in Oz the book.  Despite her surroundings, Dorothy still smiles and laughs.  She has no reason to go on a journey. Or does she?  She does, but she doesn’t realize how important a journey is to her.

Only the first five and the last two of the pages in Oz the book take place in Kansas. Baum does not paint a picture of discontent they same way its painted in Oz the movie.  The word “gray” is used 10 times in the first three pages.

“When Dorothy stood in the doorway and looked around, she could see nothing but the great gray prairie on every side. Not a tree nor a house broke the broad sweep of flat country that reached to the edge of the sky in all directions. The sun had baked the plowed land into a gray mass, with little cracks running through it. Even the grass was not green, for the sun had burned the tops of the long blades until they were the same gray color to be seen everywhere. Once the house had been painted, but the sun blistered the paint and the rains washed it away, and now the house was as dull and gray as everything else.

“When Aunt Em came there to live she was a young, pretty wife. The sun and wind had changed her, too. They had taken the sparkle from her eyes and left them a sober gray; they had taken the red from her cheeks and lips, and they were gray also. She was thin and gaunt, and never smiled now. When Dorothy, who was an orphan, first came to her, Aunt Em had been so startled by the child’s laughter that she would scream and press her hand upon her heart whenever Dorothy’s merry voice reached her ears; and she still looked at the little girl with wonder that she could find anything to laugh at.

“Uncle Henry never laughed. He worked hard from morning till night and did not know what joy was. He was gray also, from his long beard to his rough boots, and he looked stern and solemn, and rarely spoke.

“It was Toto that made Dorothy laugh, and saved her from growing as gray as her other surroundings. Toto was not gray; he was a little black dog, with long silky hair and small black eyes that twinkled merrily on either side of his funny, wee nose. Toto played all day long, and Dorothy played with him, and loved him dearly.

“Today, however, they were not playing. Uncle Henry sat upon the doorstep and looked anxiously at the sky, which was even grayer than usual. Dorothy stood in the door with Toto in her arms, and looked at the sky too. Aunt Em was washing the dishes.”

If Dorothy did not go on a journey she eventually would have turned gray. She didn’t need callous farm hands to dream about going over the rainbow. Her soul was calling out to her.  That she didn’t deliberately embark on a journey is not unusual. More often than not we need to be pushed, or in Dorothy’s case, she needed to be whisked away by a twister.

There were no yellow brick roads in Kansas.  All the roads were gray.

We don’t choose to travel a gray gravel road.  We sometimes settle for it because we are too afraid to take that journey.

 

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The movie officially turns 80 on August 25 although the celebrating began at the beginning of the year. The book is older. It was published in 1900. This blog is only nine years old. But in those nine years I have attempted to blend the book and the movie in a way that shines a light on the mythical meaning and message of the “story.”  I put the word story in quotes because story is an essential ingredient in life.  Without story we just exist. With story we flourish.

To join the Oz celebration bandwagon I want to spend the next few blogs talking about how L. Frank Baum’s little story has a bigger meaning when we look at is as a myth. But in order to do that we have to stop thinking that a myth is a lie. Myths  are, according to the esteemed comparative mythologist Joseph Campbell, “clues to the spiritual potentialities of the human life.”

Fellow mythologist, Rollo May, had this to say: Myths are permanent. “They deal with the greatest of all problems, the problems which do not change because men and women do not change. They deal with love; with war; with sin; with tyranny; with courage; with fate; and all in some way or other deal with the relation of man to those divine powers which are sometimes to be cruel, and sometimes, alas to be just. A myth is a way of making sense in a senseless world. Myths are narrative patterns that give significance to our existence…myths are our way of finding meaning and significance. Myths are like the beams in a house; not exposed to outside view, they are the structure which holds the house together so people can live in it.”

There is no denying that even today we are all trying to make sense in a senseless world.  We not only want to find a comforting meaning of life, we long for the return of the hero.

Think about the number of contemporary movies that are all about heroes.  From the Star Wars, Star Trek, Harry Potter, Spider Man, Wonder Woman, Black Panther franchises. It is not by accident that film makers have turned to making films about heroes. But not your normal hero, the mega hits are about super heroes with super powers.

We like our everyday heroes, but we love our super heroes, primarily because we have lost faith in down-to-earth heroes. We’ve stopped believing in our own heroic potentiality. And that’s a shame because we only live one life…our life…and if we don’t believe we are the hero in our life story, we’ve given up all the power we have to make a difference.

We often don’t think of Dorothy Gale as a heroic figure, but she was. And she did what every hero has to do. She had to take the heroic journey.

So, join me as we unravel the mythical journey of Dorothy in Oz.

 

Eight years have flown by since I first posted this blog. Other than changing the dates from 2010 and 2011 to 2018 and 2019, the message still appears to be relevant.

Along The Yellow Brick Road

I felt it was only appropriate to take a moment on the last day of 2010 and share a yellow brick road sentiment. Since the most important question Dorothy was ever asked was “And what did you learn, Dorothy?” I thought I would respond by saying what it was I learned in 2010.

Hmmmm. Do I still have some time to learn something?

Of course I learned a lot in 2010, but rather than bore some of you and disappoint the rest of you, let me sum it all up the way Forest Gump might have:

“Life in 2010 was like a box of Christmas lights.”

And what does that mean? Think about Christmas lights. No matter what you do with them when you take them and store them away, they always come out in a ‘ridonculous’ knotted-mess. And that’s what I think most of our lives are like…at least some…

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2018 xmas story for YBR

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Dear Political Winners and Losers –

Some of you were elected. Some of you were not. Another governor who makes my skin crawl will get to serve a third term.  A senator who should be the face for slime balls got re-elected despite the fact that he has an approval rating lower than acceptable.

The mudslinging of this campaign season was over the top. But, I should realize that a campaign with dignity is never going to happen.

So the Dems got more seats in the House and the Republicans held onto the Senate.  Is that a good thing?  No. It just means two more years of stupid government.

One thing I would like to ask the re-elected and the newly elected is: Who do you think you are?  That’s right. I’d like to know who you think you are.  The only problem with that question is that it will never get an honest answer because ALL politicians lost the ability to be real.  They even lost the ability to speak like human beings.  They speak politics which is not even close to English.

So you winners won. And now you will focus on your agenda…meaning that you will see what you can do to stay in office for another thousand years and work on climbing up the political ladder.

And I’m supposed to be the one who didn’t have a brain!  But you know something, I am real. I don’t have an agenda. You will never see me wearing silly hats and waving flags and banners at any political rally.

Our country is divided because rational people know that there are no simple issues. Our country is divided because people are arguing across the aisle to prove they are right rather than talking to see what is right.  And since you are a politician you don’t have what it takes to realize that right does not wear a political party label.

Even though some of you have a point that POTUS is a certified whack-a-doodle, your vitriol and antics only go to prove that you are as much a jerk as the man in the White House.

You winners and losers are an embarrassment. The only difference is that you winners have a chance to continue being an embarrassment.  You won because you got more votes, but I hate to tell you that you need to serve the people who didn’t vote for you.  You have to mean as much to them as the people who got you where you are.  The people who didn’t vote for you are your constituents, too.

Before I go pull the stuffing out of my head I want to ask you something important.  When you stop gloating, did you ever think of sitting down with your opponent and seeing how you can help to serve the people who voted for them?

Sincerely,

Scarecrow