Saturday, 14 January 2012

"Somewhere Over The Rainbow"

Last Sunday afternoon I was lounging on my settee, just feeling good about life. I looked up out of my window and saw the most beautiful purplely pink sky. For whatever reason I decided to post a comment about this on Facebook, I received some interesting responses. Other people in Manchester looked out of their windows and enjoyed the scene; a friend in Edinburgh said that the sky was the same there, as it was in Blackpool and other places too. It seemed right that the sky over Manchester was pinky purple that night. After all it had been derby day and red and blue mixed together does make purple. So a pinky/purple sky over Manchester seemed appropriate as the light turned into the dark and the people of the city settled back down to normality.

A little later another friend reported that as she had been travelling back from Birmingham that day, she had seen the perfect rainbow. I’ve been thinking an awful lot about rainbows these past few weeks and that pot of gold that lies at the other side of them. In fact ever since the flight to Transylvania, last Autumn, Dorothy, her red slippers, the Wizard of Oz and the saying “there’s no place like home” keep on emerging into my consciousness.

On a recent flight to Transylvania I had noticed a young family who were obviously returning home. The daughter and the mother spent quite a lot of the flight teasing the dad, this both amused and delighted me as we passed over Europe. I had noticed that the little girl was wearing ruby slippers, like those worn by Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.

On both the flight into Transylvania and the flight back I sat with the same young woman. She had obviously been visiting family for a few days and was now returning to Paris. Interestingly she was also wearing red footwear, but of a more adult version. She was wearing red knee length boots. I was wearing red shoes too, trainers in my case. Now I don’t know what all this means, if anything, but I cannot seem to get these images out of my head. I can’t seem to get Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz out of my head either.

Legend promises a pot of gold at the end of every rainbow. We all live in hope of this. Hope is vital, it helps us to keep walking down the yellow brick roads of life, especially when the going gets tough. This though can become problematic, especially if we focus too much on what is at the end of the road. If we gaze too hard at the pot of gold we may miss the treasures that are already here. The kingdom of God need not be some place way off into the future, maybe it’s already here. Maybe we already possess all we need within ourselves and each other.

In his classic fantasy tale “The Wizard of Oz” L. Frank Baum tells the story of Dorothy a young Kansas girl who wishes to escape the drudgery of her existence. In the film she sings the lament “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” She sings “Birds fly over the rainbow, why then oh why can’t I.”

Dorothy longs for a better, more exciting colourful life. In the film the scenes in Kansas are grey, but when she reaches Oz everything is in glorious Technicolor. All that she cares about in Kansas is also under threat, her dog Toto is about to be taken from her - Toto in Latin means everything - In Kansas not only has life no meaning, but everything that matters is under threat.

I was chatting with a friend the other day who was suffering the same problems. He was saying that his life had lost meaning and nothing seemed to give him any joy. That it all seemed grey and colourless and even tasteless. As a result of this all that seemed to matter the most to him was under threat. Now of course this wasn’t wholly true he was just voicing some fear. A fear everyone experiences at times. I spoke to him again a little later and he was feeling much better, the colour was returning to his life again. Sometimes all we have to do is voice our fears and they begin to diminish.

Often in life we only really appreciate what we’ve got when we come close to losing it. It is only after Dorothy returns from her Technicolor adventure that she begins to appreciate all that she has. Yes it is just as grey as it was before, but now everything appears different. What she had been searching for had been there all along. Yes there are pots of gold at the end of every rainbow, because there are pots of gold already inside our hearts.

Dorothy’s travelling companions also learnt the same lessons. The Tin Woodman wished he had a heart and was prepared to go to any lengths to get one. He would risk life itself just to find a heart. Yet throughout the tale he displays tenderness, sensitivity and compassion. He weeps when the lion threatens to kill a deer and pleads with him “Don’t! Please don’t. I should certainly weep if you killed a poor dear, and then my jaws would rust again.” When he kills a beetle he weeps so much that his jaws do indeed rust shut. Dorothy is beside herself with anguish but the scarecrow comes to the rescue, takes oil from her basket and lubricates the woodman’s jaw and before long everything is as good as new. It seems the Woodman definitely has a heart, he just isn’t aware of. Perhaps the real problem is that he is afraid to feel too much?

The Scarecrow is much the same. He is also searching for what he believes he lacks. In his case a brain. Yet when push comes to shove he is the one who saves the day. He is the one who possesses the foresight to find the way out. He is the one who can think under pressure. When they come across an impassable ravine it is he who suggests that the lion jump across, with them on his back, one by one.
Here we see the supposedly cowardly lion stepping up to the mark. He leaps at this opportunity to help his companions. Yet he cannot see this himself, he still considers himself a coward as he is so aware of his fear. But is courage about the absence of fear? I do not think so. In my eyes courage is about overcoming fear and not the absence of fear. Courage is about finding faith in the presence of fear.

Finally they arrive at the Emerald City and ask the Wizard to give to them what they believe they lack. This he promises to do if they would kill the wicked witch, a task which he believes is beyond them. But of course they succeed and return to the Emerald City expecting their reward.

They return disappointed though. During a frantic scene Toto pulls back the curtain revealing the truth about the Wizard. It had all been a case of smoke and mirrors he is an ordinary man, with no magic powers. Dorothy tells him that he is a very bad man. To which he replies "Oh, no, my dear; I'm really a very good man, but I'm a very bad Wizard, I must admit."

A disappointing end it would seem, there was nothing there at the end of the rainbow. But is this true? Well let’s look a little more closely.

The scarecrow did indeed find his wonderful brains; the tin man did indeed find his lovely heart; the lion no longer lived as a coward. And in the end Dorothy did find her way back to Kansas as she clicked her ruby slippers and recounted the chant...“there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.”

Surely this is the lesson from this beautiful tale. Wherever we journey, however we get there and whatever it leads to in the end the real purpose is to uncover that pot of gold that we already have within each and every one of us. Hopefully by uncovering our own pots of gold we will help others to do likewise.

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