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Archive for September, 2012

Although there was no casino in the Emerald City, I think revenue from gambling could have added to the great and powerful Wizard of Oz’s treasury. Recently I paid a visit to Moheghan Sun where the odds are definitely against you, and plunked down a couple of buck in the slot machines.

After losing about $40 of my own money (my self-imposed limit) I got to thinking about slot machines and life in 21st century America.

From the inner workings of my sometimes metaphorical mind, I see the slot machine as the American Dream. My generation was raised to believe in the American Dream where anything could happen…as long as you applied yourself and worked hard.

I bought the American Dream and I fed it one quarter after another and kept pulling the arm on the American Dream slot machine believing that one day I would hit the jackpot.

And like my recent real slot machine experience where I continued to feed the slot machine only to see my small winnings erode one pull after another until the machine said, I’m empty, feed me more.

Well, I stopped feeding the slot machine because reality set in and I realized that sure, there was a chance I could hit it big, but reason told me I was out of my mind.

I think it’s the same today in the real world.  I, along with millions of other hard-working Americans have been feeding the American Dream believing that one day we would hit it big. What were we thinking?

The American Dream slot machine is none other than the Wizard of Oz himself…a big humbug. Those of us who fed it in the belief that there would eventually be a payoff have come to realize that it ain’t gonna happen no matter how many times we are suckered into believing it can because the political pundits sell us on one story where it did happen.

I’ve been around the block too many times to be hypnotized by the hoopla surrounding the 2012 Presidential Campaign.

The two candidates stopped feeding the great American slot machine a long time ago despite their gung-ho American patriotic sound-bites.

When I enter the voting machine and eventually pull the lever, do I honestly think I’m going to hit the jackpot?  Not only your life.

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Evil in the form of power was markedly easy to identify in L. Frank Baum’s Oz, but less so in the real world where evil often lurks in the hearts and minds of men and women who appear to be nothing short of wonderful.

Take a lesson from nature and consider the oleander, a flower of great beauty. “Oleander is one of the most poisonous plants in the world and contains numerous toxic compounds, many of which can be deadly to people, especially young children. The toxicity of Oleander is considered extremely high and it has been reported that in some cases only a small amount had lethal or near lethal effects.”

Dorothy was confronted with evil in the person of the Wicked Witch of the West. That her power was great was made evident in the book when the Good Witch of the North told Dorothy that the Wicked Witch was more powerful than she was.  (Not a good testimony for the power of good versus evil, but probably more accurate than what we were raised to believe.)

When it comes to the power of evil versus good in Baum’s book, I sometimes think of it in terms of the individual and how we all have power within and the freedom to choose between the two.  Then I sometimes think that Dorothy is symbolic of the individual living in a world where power is all around us in the hands of others who either choose to use it for good or evil purposes.

But, are we wise enough to recognize the difference or are we lulled into thinking that unless evil is so over the top that we dismiss evil when it looks like a lovely oleander?

In the Oz story Dorothy had no trouble at all distinguishing between good and evil. Not so for us living in the “real world.”

More often than not, evil masquerades as good.  And because we either fail to recognize it or choose to ignore it, evil is allowed to flourish, mostly because we brush aside the evil because we deem it not worthy of concern.

We can point to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and say he is evil incarnate despite the fact that he says “we” have entrusted our fate to the devil…the Prince of Darkness and Evil.  It makes life easier when we have a scorecard and can easily identify evil people who wield power in the name of evil. However, we let evil slip through our fingers on a daily basis every time we either turn our back on wrong doing or when we fail to stand up to the evil that lurks all around us.

My fear is that because we have become so powerless, because we have turned over our power to other people and because we live in fear of being banished from our jobs, we close our eyes and keep our mouths shut.

In a tight economy when jobs are as tough to keep as they are to find, we fall victim to allowing evil to grow wild. On the one and we pride ourselves on the rights and freedoms granted us by the documents we call our democratic gospel.  But in our daily lives we fail to use or cherished freedom and sacrifice our God-given rights because we are afraid of the big, bad wolf.

There is no such thing as freedom of speech in the workplace, and for those of you who believe such a freedom does exist, I suggest you take your head out of your boss’s butt and see life as it really is.

One of my favorite characters of all time is Don Quixote, the knight errant. In his quest he tilted with windmills and fought the impossible fight all in the name of justice and truth.  He saw the world, not the way it was, but the way it could and should be. In the end, he was forced to look into the mirror and see life as it really was and to admit that he was a fool.

It nearly killed him. If it hadn’t been for the resolve that was buried deep inside him, he would have given up and died. Instead he rose to fight again, and again, and again.

When I look back at all the words I have written in a number of different forms, one thing stands out. I might be forced to look into the mirror of reality, but I refuse to succumb to the evil power that currently rules…and ruins our lives.

Dorothy taught me that we have the power of goodness inside and Don Quixote taught me it is better to tilt with windmills than it is to abandon the good fight.

Do not be fooled by the oleanders in your life.

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Those damn shoes. Were they merely symbolic like the conch was to the boys in “Lord of the Flies,” or were they the real deal?

Of course they were symbolic. Unless they were made by Nike the silver shoes in the “Wizard of Oz” were not just symbolic, they were a metaphor.

Who said?

I said. And since this is my blog I’ll not only say whatever it is I want to say, I’ll claim that whatever I say is the Gospel truth.

But, the silver shoes, no matter how much power they had, are nothing compared to the mark on Dorothy’s forehead. (For those of you who are not familiar with the book, before Dorothy skipped off on the Yellow Brick Road, the Good Witch of the North kissed her on the forehead, leaving a round, shining mark.)

Following is how Baum told the story of Dorothy’s encounter with the Wicked Witch of the West:

 

The remaining Monkeys threw pieces of stout rope around the Lion and wound many coils about his body and head and legs, until he was unable to bite or scratch or struggle in any way. Then they lifted him up and flew away with him to the Witch’s castle, where he was placed in a small yard with a high iron fence around it, so that he could not escape.

But Dorothy they did not harm at all. She stood, with Toto in her arms, watching the sad fate of her comrades and thinking it would soon be her turn. The leader of the Winged Monkeys flew up to her, his long, hairy arms stretched out and his ugly face grinning terribly; but he saw the mark of the Good Witch’s kiss upon her forehead and stopped short, motioning the others not to touch her.

“We dare not harm this little girl”  he said to them, “for she is protected by the Power of Good, and that is greater than the Power of Evil. All we can do is to carry her to the castle of the Wicked Witch and leave her there.”

The Wicked Witch was both surprised and worried when she saw the mark on Dorothy’s forehead, for she knew well that neither the Winged Monkeys nor she, herself, dare hurt the girl in any way.

(But, the Witch had to have the shoes…)

She looked down at Dorothy’s feet, and seeing the Silver Shoes, began to tremble with fear, for she knew what a powerful charm belonged to them. At first the Witch was tempted to run away from Dorothy; but she happened to look into the child’s eyes and saw how simple the soul behind them was, and that the little girl did not know of the wonderful power the Silver Shoes gave her. So the Wicked Witch laughed to herself, and thought, “I can still make her my slave, for she does not know how to use her power.”

The girl had to work hard during the day, and often the Witch threatened to beat her with the same old umbrella she always carried in her hand. But, in truth, she did not dare to strike Dorothy, because of the mark upon her forehead. The child did not know this, and was full of fear for herself and Toto.

Now the Wicked Witch had a great longing to have for her own the Silver Shoes which the girl always wore… if she could only get hold of the Silver Shoes, they would give her more power than all the other things she had lost. She watched Dorothy carefully, to see if she ever took off her shoes, thinking she might steal them. But the child was so proud of her pretty shoes that she never took them off except at night and when she took her bath. The Witch was too much afraid of the dark to dare go in Dorothy’s room at night to take the shoes, and her dread of water was greater than her fear of the dark, so she never came near when Dorothy was bathing. Indeed, the old Witch never touched water, nor ever let water touch her in any way.

But the wicked creature was very cunning, and she finally thought of a trick that would give her what she wanted. She placed a bar of iron in the middle of the kitchen floor, and then by her magic arts made the iron invisible to human eyes. So that when Dorothy walked across the floor she stumbled over the bar, not being able to see it, and fell at full length. She was not much hurt, but in her fall one of the Silver Shoes came off; and before she could reach it, the Witch had snatched it away and put it on her own skinny foot.

The wicked woman was greatly pleased with the success of her trick, for as long as she had one of the shoes she owned half the power of their charm, and Dorothy could not use it against her, even had she known how to do so.

The little girl, seeing she had lost one of her pretty shoes, grew angry, and said to the Witch, “Give me back my shoe!”

“I will not,” retorted the Witch, ‘or it is now my shoe, and not yours.”

“You are a wicked creature!” cried Dorothy. “You have no right to take my shoe from me.”

“I shall keep it, just the same,” said the Witch, laughing at her, “and someday I shall get the other one from you, too.”

This made Dorothy so very angry that she picked up the bucket of water that stood near and dashed it over the Witch, wetting her from head to foot.

Instantly the wicked woman gave a loud cry of fear, and then, as Dorothy looked at her in wonder, the Witch began to shrink and fall away.

So….

What does this have to do with us?

It has everything to do with our power and how we fail to recognize that we have all been kissed on the forehead and the indelible mark we carry is who we are and the fact that at no time in the history of the world has there ever been another us. And no matter how in significant we might think we are, no matter how ordinary, and no matter how invisible we might think we are,

Unfortunately, just like Dorothy, we either forget about our unique mark or over time people have convinced us that we aren’t special.

We are. But because we spend most of our lives fighting to survive in such a competitive world, we direct our energy toward climbing career ladders instead of scaling the walls that will set us free.

Evil people see how blessed we are but they prey on us. They use all their power and energy to control us and to keep us in chains. The “they” can be our parents or friends, but more likely than not the people who prey on us the most are the people we call “boss.”

And because our lives have been so “cubicalized,” we slowly lose whatever power we have to remain soulful.

What about the shoes?

The shoes have power, but what does that mean anyway? At one time in the Oz story they belonged to the Wicked Witch of the East who must have misused the power of the shoes. I say misused because any power that is used for reasons other than good or noble is a misuse of power.

Unfortunately, most people who have the silver shoes misuse the power. And not only do they misuse the power, they are elevated to high places for doing so.

We all have power, but at a very young age someone or a bunch of someones take the power away from us. And in some cases we willingly turn over the power to those someones.

To surrender our power is one of the worst things we can do, but it is so hard to hold onto our power because we, like Dorothy when she tripped over the piece of iron on the floor, lose our power.

Unlike Dorothy who ended the power struggle with a bucket of water, we who live in the “real’ world cannot throw a bucket of water on the people who ignore the mark on our forehead or take away our power.

If you want to know what I think is a real problem in the world is the very fact that we are powerless to use our power…and that’s why so many evil people have all the power.

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From the desk of Dorothy Gale:

With a severe weather forecast in the immediate future and the possibility of tornadoes, what a great time to blog about honesty, especially during the season of anti-honesty, i.e. the 2012 presidential campaign, or as the great and powerful Wizard of Oz like to call it, “Humbug Heaven.”

The purpose of my blog is not to rain on the parades of the two contenders because I don’t believe a word either of them says nor do I think either one of them has the magic potion to erase the national debt, significantly reduce unemployment, bring peace to the Middle East, lower our dependency on fossil fuel or make network television any better. I don’t blame Obama for not keeping all his promises nor do I fault Romney for proclaiming his litany of promises.

What disturbs me is the loss of honesty not just in America, but around the world.

Washington supposedly never told a lie. (Not!) And Abe’s nickname was Honest Abe, a title I believe he earned, even though I would not put him up for sainthood. If we’re looking for honesty, we shouldn’t go looking for it in the halls of the US Congress, the White House, nor anywhere else in Washington, DC.

But, honesty isn’t just absent from the Nation’s Capitol. It’s about vanished everywhere you look.

A standard definition includes the following on honesty: truthfulness, sincerity, or frankness; freedom from deceit or fraud.

The word I find most interesting in that rudimentary definition is the word “frankness.” And frankness is defined as “plainness of speech; candor; openness.” (Politicians take note. None of you have given any evidence of ‘plainness of speech.’)

From our earliest days we are taught to be honest, but at the same time we are told to be polite and respectful. If an adult speaks down to us, is rude or obnoxious wed can’t be honest. We have to be polite.  Unfortunately, we are being disingenuous, and this “habit of the heart and mind” takes over as we grow up, and instead of championing honesty, we settle for “dis-honesty.”

What happens, you might ask, when someone asks us “does this dress make me look fat?” or some other question of that type? Most of us would bring out the charm and attempt not to answer the question…honestly, but say something innocuous.

I say if someone asks you that question do the right thing and be honest.  Even if you have to say: “Fat? If it made you look any fatter if you bent over they could show a 3D movie on your butt!”

The loss of honesty I’m talking about is the kind that doesn’t exist in most workplaces. It’s gotten so bad there that “leaders” are no longer asking questions that demand honest answers, instead they are making pronouncements that are not negotiable, and woe to the individual who has legitimate questions because that’s the best way to sign your workplace death warrant.

Disagree and you are labeled negative. Question the sanity of a decision and you are called disloyal. And what’s worse is the fact that you can’t even bounce your thoughts off anyone else in the workplace because and despite someone taking anything you say in strictest confidence, your honesty will travel through the grapevine faster than a roaring forest fire.

I’ll end my blog of few followers with the lyrics from a Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young song I once quoted to the parents at a college orientation:

You who are on the road
Must have a code that you can live by
And so become yourself
Because the past is just a good bye.

Teach your children well,
Their father’s hell did slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams
The one they picked, the one you’ll know by.

Don’t you ever ask them why, if they told you, you would cry,
So just look at them and sigh and know they love you.

And you, of tender years,
Can’t know the fears that your elders grew by,
And so please help them with your youth,
They seek the truth before they can die.

Can you hear and do you care and
Cant you see we must be free to
Teach your children what you believe in.
Make a world that we can live in.

Teach your parents well,
Their children’s hell will slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams
The one they picked, the one you’ll know by.

Don’t you ever ask them why, if they told you, you would cry,
So just look at them and sigh and know they love you.

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