Archive for the ‘Tin Man’ Category


Illustration credit: http://www.freakingnews.com/Donald-Trump-the-Scarecrow-Without-a-Brain-Pictures-140003.asp

What do President Donald Trump, Hamlet, and The Wizard of Oz have in common?  A lot. Let me go right to a snippet of Hamlet’s often quoted soliloquy on man:

What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason!
how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god!
the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals!
And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?

At first glance it appears that Hamlet is giving a glowing review of man. But when the quote is taken apart and the exclamation points are changed to question marks as they are in some versions of the text, the meaning changes completely. And I believe it is closer to Shakespeare’s intended meaning.

Consider the current meaning of the expression “you’re a piece of work.”  It’s not a compliment. It’s an insult.

So, with that said, if we insert this meaning into the Hamlet quote with the change in punctuation, we come away understanding that man is not noble in reason, not infinite in faculty, etc.

To Trump’s supporters the exclamation points remain. To his detractors the question marks are in place.

For a minute take Trump’s campaign rhetoric and his political moves out of the equation and look at Trump the man, the mere mortal.  Contrary to the saying about actions speaking louder than words, President Trump’s action and words speak out loud and clear.  As a businessman he might be the great and powerful wizard, but as a man, he is a humbug.

Put Trump in Oz and he would fire the Wizard and take over control of the Wonderful Land of Oz. Where the original Wizard might have put green glasses on all the people in the Emerald City to convince them they were seeing what he wanted them to see, he knew in his heart he was misleading the people. (Take note of the word “mislead.”  It literally means to lead people astray.)

In Wizard Trump’s case, he actually believes in his “humbugary.” In truth he is the scarecrow in need of a thoughtful brain. He is also the Tin Man, in need of a compassionate heart. And he is the Lion, but not the Lion who knows he lacks courage. He is the Lion who believes he is the King of the Forest. A lion who roars, rages and tweets.

I have lived through the “reign” of a dozen presidents. My view of them as political leaders means less to me than my view of them as men. I judge them using the checklist in Hamlet’s speech.  I want a person in the White House who is noble in reason, a person who is admirable, and a person who is in action like an angel.

There’s no doubt that Obama, Bush and Clinton might have fallen short in many human areas. However, they were elevated by the office of the presidency and more often than not acted accordingly.


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I’m in the state of confusion, the 51st state of the Union where I seem to have taken up permanent residence.  Lately I’m very confused about the definition of words we toss around with reckless abandon.  Words like Democrat and Republican, in my opinion, are totally useless words that should be banned from use in private or public.  But words like conservative and liberal are two words that need some attention.

The dictionary defines the two this way as adjectives:

liberal – open to new behavior or opinions and willing to discard traditional values.
conservative – holding to traditional attitudes and values and cautious about change or innovation, typically in relation to politics or religion.

The “troubling” words in the liberal definition are “willing to discard,” because discard is so close in meaning to toss or throw away like a piece of trash. The words “cautious about change” in the definition of conservative are, in my opinion, less offensive, but can easily be used to stop progress.

What I hate about the two words, aside from their lame definitions, is the fact that both words have driven a wedge between us.

I am a conservative.  I conserve water, energy, and natural resources.  I am a liberal. I am liberal with the time I spend helping other people, in using my money to help the less fortunate, and in praising people when praise is deserved.

But, I am not so cautious about change, when change is beneficial to us all, even if it might benefit some more than others.  I am not willing to discard traditional values without some gut-wrenching decision-making because, as Tevye said in Fiddler on the Roof, “without our traditions our lives would be as shaky as a fiddler on the roof.

I have no problem embracing relationships of and between genders. I have no problem with people who are working hard to legalize marijuana. I am a big supporter when it comes to making sure everyone’s rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are defended. I am not a big, vocal proponent of abortion, but, I am against making it illegal because that won’t work.  Does that mean I’m too weak to defend the lives of the unborn? No.  It just means that I think a woman does have a right to make a decision despite the fact that I believe life is life…but a life has to be wanted, and I don’t buy the argument about so many couples want to adopt children.  (The issue is far too complex to fit into a blog.)

But I also fear that we are living in a society where anything goes without giving a second thought to traditional values that perhaps might  have some permanence and universal viability. These values, in my opinion, include respect, honesty, tolerance, selflessness, compassion, etc.  My conservative genes believe that today it is hard to maintain values in a world that spins on an axis of entitlement.

When I was in college during the big anti-war movement of the 60s, I was amazed how a “liberal” student could come home from a peace march and turn up his stereo to a deafening volume, but would say “fuck off” to a conservative, aka, hawk, when asked if the stereo could be scaled back.

I sometimes believe that extreme liberals and conservatives make it hard for all of us to create a world of mutual respect and admiration.  There are numerous forks in the road and we have to believe that not all of the roads to the left need be taken nor should we take all of the roads to the right. As a secular people we have to understand that our rights can be found in our founding documents. As a secular people we also need to know that we have a right to make changes in our laws and that our “laws” are not necessarily sacred.

Progress is not a dirty word. It does not, pardon the expression, trump, using our heads or following our hearts in the pursuit of creating a just world.  It does mean it is going to take a lot of internal courage to support justice for all.


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WARNING: This blog might be offensive to people who are strictly literal by nature or default. I prefer absurdity over anything.

I had a difficult time coming up with an image for this blog because I didn’t want to take the easy way out and post a picture that ridicules the subject of this blog, because if anything destroys an open dialogue it’s mockery.

I was reduced to bat-shit bafflement the other day when I watched the news coverage of the opening of the Noah’s Ark (amusement/bemusement) attraction in Kentucky. I might cringe at Bible Villages and Water Parks (Old or New Testament) and other religious themes attractions, but I am rarely left dumbfounded.

It’s not that a certain conservative Christian raised money to reconstruct Noah’s Ark using a Biblical blueprint. It’s the fact that one man’s religious conviction/faith is dismissively arrogant and steel-trap closed minded.

The founder of this Biblical attraction is of the school of a literal interpretation of the Bible. His many visitors/followers are of the same school. That there has been a very vocal negative reaction to this Arktraction (my word) can be found by a simple Google Search.

What saddens me more than the literal reading of the story of Noah in Genesis, is the ripple effect such an interpretation has on almost everything else. Not only does it reduce scientific research and discoveries to a pile of saw dust, it supports such “arkaic” notions regarding life in the 21st Century.

But, and it was a big but that went off in my head like the big bang, Noah’s Arktraction is too easy a subject to attack when “we” are so willing to “accept”  other sacred stories, dogmas, religious rules, etc. on face value.

If we want to poop-poop the Ark ( and there must have been a lot of shit in the hold of that boat at the end of the voyage), we have to be willing to poke a stick at some of the other “big beliefs” proclaimed as truths by the other major world religions.

Walking on water, raising the dead, multiplying loaves and fishes, immaculate conceptions, virgin births, transubstantiation and resurrections, also have to be free game for thinkers and non-believers.

And lest we forget, Christianity is not the only belief system that obliges followers to strict adherence of dogmas and laws.  Have you ever taken a glance at the 613 Mitzvots (Commandments) of Judaism?  Oy! Made me shake my head so many times I risked having it fall off.

Not to mention some of the eye-opening “beliefs” put forth in the Book of Mormon (not the  musical) and the Koran.

Proving or disproving any belief system is a waste of time.  People who are wired to a particular belief system are usually not willing to abandon their beliefs…and people who are adamantly opposed to a particular belief system are equally unwilling to embrace the “thoughtology” of another person.

Because I have pushed the boundaries of a belief system imposed on me as a dumb ass kid and opened my mind to dozens of belief systems, I can no longer be a literalist in any fashion.

Joseph Campbell, a man who devoted his life to unraveling religious thought, once said, “Mythology is someone else’s religion.”

And to be very honest, I am not particularly concerned with religious truth. I wake up each morning excited about possibilities.  I live my day making an effort to be kind and compassionate and when I see a wrong, i.e. where someone’s life, liberty and the pursuit of joy is jeopardized, I will speak up and out.

I don’t need an afterlife. I might need an occasional breath mint after dinner, but I don’t do anything during the day to secure an orchestra seat in a place many people call heaven.

I no longer believe in a God presented in any so-called books of sacred scripture. If there is any truth to the idea that I was created in the image and likeness of “God” I don’t have to take it literally.  I’ll just think that I have to power in my little hands to do my part to create a world where all people can bathe in the sunlight of life.

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ruby bowl

From professionals to pundits the money was on the Monkey Men to win the 2016 Ruby Bowl…and for good reason.  The Monkey Men had a perfect season while the Munchkins struggled early on in the season and critics said they only made it to the Bowl game because their division had a lackluster season…at best.

But when the two teams met on the gridiron, the game took on a life of its own. The Monkey Men’s star quarterback was no match for the Munchkin’s strong defensive efforts. No matter what the Monkey Men did when they had the ball they couldn’t take control of the game.

When the Ruby Bowl game was over, it left the Scarecrow scratching his head. “It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. I don’t know what went wrong.”

The Tin Man pulled the Scarecrow aside and said, “In life what we think should happen always doesn’t happen and it’s not because something went wrong. It’s because something went right.”

There’s a lesson to be learned here. On the YBR we can’t look back on what happened and let it influence what might happen. It just goes to show that an upset in not always upsetting for everyone.

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ruby slipper with pebble

Although author Frank L. Baum never mentioned a pesky pebble getting stuck in Dorothy’s slippers, I can’t imagine her walking all that way from Munchkin Land to the Emerald City without it happening.  It happens to all of us and usually at the worst time. (Is there ever a good time to get a pebble stuck in your shoe? I don’t think so.)

In life, unless you enjoy pain and suffering, you would stop as soon as possible and remove the pebble. However, on the YBR, a pebble is not a literal pebble, it’s a pesky metaphorical pebble…and as we all know, it is much harder to shake a metaphorical pebble from your shoe.

It doesn’t take a genius to understand the meaning behind this metaphorical pebble. It’s whatever it is in our lives that distracts us. It’s that little thing that takes our mind off the more important things in our lives.  A good synonym for pebble might be a worry, primarily because it’s the worries in our lives that often cause us to get distracted.

It makes perfect sense to empty our shoes of real and metaphorical pebbles.

But this being the YBR where metaphors often masquerade for something other than what you think, there is another way to consider the pebble. I’ll explain by telling a story.

When I was a kid of seven or eight, I’ll never forget the pained look on my mother’s face when my father would arrive home after bending his elbow a bit too much at a bar. She didn’t have to say anything. I could see the map of sorry all over her face. Seeing that painful look on my mother’s face whenever my father came home inebriated, became a pebble, not in my shoe, but in my heart.

That pebble still resides in my heart even though my mother has been gone close to 30 years. It was a pebble that taught me to be aware of other people’s feelings. It taught me to be aware of looks of pain and sorrow that might appear on another person’s face no matter how hard they try to conceal it

On Dorothy’s journey on the YBR she was continually alert to signs of pain and sadness on the faces of her traveling companions. It made her who she was.

While I heartily endorse the idea of ridding our shoes of distracting pebbles, I think we become a little stronger when there might be a pebble or two in our hearts.  It brings out the Tin Man in us.

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May you think more deeply, more objectively and in particular….more openly,because there’s
nothing worse than a mind closed to new ideas and new ways of thinking.

tin man

May you learn the real meaning of love and understand that
a heart is not measured by how much you love, but how much you are loved…and
to be loved you have to be willing to have your heart broken.


May you have the courage not only to stand up for what is wrong,
but the courage to speak up and out about what is right. Remember, it’s
a lot easier to swim up-stream with the masses, than it is to
paddle down stream…alone.

wizard commencement

May you learn to see your gifts and learn to use them
for a greater good.


You’ve always had the power inside you. There’s no app for that.


Always remember: There IS no place like home!

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The Fifth Oz Commencement Address:

Today one journey ends and another one begins. Unless you are going on to graduate school, your journey along the yellow brick road of formal education is over. Kaput. Finis. Bye-bye. So I will pose the same question to you that I posed to Dorothy…in the movie.

I asked her what she learned while you she was in Oz.

She said: “I learned that if I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.”

On first look Dorothy’s answer was sort of a downer. I mean, how many of you went off to spend a semester abroad? How many of you went in search of your heart’s desire by taking an internship in a distant city? Many of you most certainly didn’t spend four years in your own backyard. But, I actually don’t think that’s what Dorothy meant. To keep it simple, Dorothy was telling us that finding your heart’s desire is only possible if you take an inner journey, a reflective journey.

How much of your college journey was reflective? How many times did you turn off your cell phone, not log on to Facebook, not send a tweet, or use any other technical device? How many times did you stop thinking about your future career and take a deep breath and inhale the moment?

I fear that if you were to answer those questions honestly you would have to admit that reflection was not a main ingredient in your college recipe.

You might have amassed a great academic resume. You might have taken all the right courses to get your career started. You might have made all the right connections to open some of those corporate doors.  And while there is nothing inherently wrong with any of those accomplishments, don’t think for a minute that your degree is a guarantee…of anything. Or that you are on the right road to find your heart’s desire.

Once you leave here today, the only thing you can follow is your heart. Trust me, it’s not easy to follow your heart because more often than not it means having to make some sacrifices. You might have to sacrifice that promotion, that big raise, that corner office…

Some of you might be saying, “I never took a course that taught me how to follow my heart.”

Well, even though following-your-heart-courses might not have been in the college catalog, that doesn’t mean they weren’t offered. They were. They were disguised in all your courses, especially those courses that were not directly related to your career path.  You earned your “As” in following your heart every time you readjusted your compass to make sure you were being true to yourself, every time you read something that made you think, and every time you heard something that resonated deep inside you. You were on your way to getting a degree in follow your heart when you came to understand that your education was meant to open your mind, enlarge your heart and instill your spirit with a heavy dose of courage.

The future should excite you as it invites you to jump in and make a name for yourself.  But let me remind you that the future is filled with a number of voices beckoning you to go this way or to go that way. Unfortunately all those voice sound familiar and it’s difficult at times to know which voice is the one you should listen to you. Here’s a tip. Listen closely with your heart. If the voice doesn’t “sound” right to your heart, stop and take a deep breath. If by chance you are fooled into following the “wrong” voice, don’t panic.  Making mistakes is not a bad thing…as long as you learn from them.

If, after all I’ve said you want to be a wolf on Wall Street, and rake in the big bucks at any cost, then it’s up to you. It’s your decision, and like all decisions, you’ll have to live with the consequences of your choices.

You are about to write the story of your life. Remember that if you want your story to have many happy endings,  you don’t have to  look any further than your own back yard, because if what you’re looking for isn’t there you’re not going to find it in someone else’s back yard.

Go and find your heart’s desire on the YBR!

Commencement Addresses from the past:



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