Sunday, 22 October 2017

Oz or Some Other Place

One of my favourite places on earth is Crosby Beach. What I love are those 100 identical sculpture’s that go by the title “Another place”. There they stand staring out to sea, perhaps looking for another place, any place but here. These naked, lonely scarecrows staring out into the great big nothing, dreaming of another place. Have you ever felt like that? I have. I have stood there staring out to sea so many times dreaming of something other than the life I was living.

There was a pinky orange glow to everything, not just the sky, on Monday morning. I heard people describing it in many different ways, one friend called it a “Vanilla Sky”, a mystical, mysterious sky, pointing to some kind of otherness. Some folk didn’t like it, I know it disturbed them, change can do that to people. The strange sky somehow tapped into the fear of the unknown that is inside each of us.

Now don’t they say “Red sky at night, shepherds delight, red sky in the morning seaman’s warning?/ I suspect that the mysterious sky was a fore warning of Hurricane Ophelia that was coming in from the Atlantic. There have been some terrible destruction caused by such winds on the other side of the Atlantic this year, there was in Ireland on Monday. Are there more storms these days than in the past? There may well be. Or is it that we just hear more about them these days? Is the news of the destructive winds merely a symptom of the fear based global news state that we currently live in? I suspect it is not an either or question, but that both are true.

On Monday as I took in the strange tint of the atmosphere I too dreamt of another place, I too became like one of those Gormley statues. I dreamt of another place, but not for long as I soon entered into the day, I felt at home in my own body and at home in the ground I found myself. As I walked through the streets of Altrincham that morning I realised I was not like those cold lifeless statues; I realised I was not a brainless scarecrow, or a heartless woodman or even a cowardly lion. As I walked through the streets words began to filter into my mind of someone else who dreamed of another place, but who too learnt to find that their treasure was found at home and not some technicolour dreamland.

Someday I'll wish upon a star
Wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where trouble melts like lemon drops
High above the chimney top
That's where you'll find me

Oh, somewhere over the rainbow bluebirds fly
And the dream that you dare to,
Oh why, oh why can't I?

Dangerous words those sung by Dorothy in the 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz”, for did they not bring the Tornado. In fact the sky that Monday morning reminded me somewhat of her Kansas sky. Dorothy dreamed of another place somewhere over the rainbow, a place away from dull, grey, flat Kansas. Is there another place that we dream about, that we Hope for, a Heaven, a Nirvana. Who knows, I don’t. Either way I do not believe that we are meant to live our lives dreaming of another place, a place beyond this life. Our task, I have come to believe is to create heaven here and it begins within each and everyone of us. I much prefer to follow that simple message in the  “Sermon on the Mount” and become the light of the world. To create the Kingdom here and now.

We bring heaven alive through our loving living or we create Hell by fearing one another, fearing life, turning away and dreaming of some other place, somewhere over the rainbow, somewhere beyond this life.

That said it is so human to dream of some other place, way over there, somewhere over the rainbow, like those Gormly statues. Sometimes to appreciate what we have, what is our heaven, we have to go away or even almost lose what we have. The Holocaust survivor Eli Weisel said of gratitude, that it was a gift of the night. It was not something that came from the good things we have in life, instead it comes almost as a sense of relief as we step outside of a living hell. Finally by almost losing everything, certainly what is dearest to our hearts, we learn to want what we have.

Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz" is a wonderful example of learning to want what you have, to find the realm of love within, where ever you are. Her journey is an archetype of the spiritual quest; her journey symbolises a movement towards self-actualisation, whole-ness, atonement, at-one-ment, holiness; her journey symbolises what it means to return, to remember, to become who you are; her journey symbolises re-birth. It is important to realise that the word conversion comes from the Latin “Convertere” which meant to turn, or to return, that is what re-birth means, something that can happen a thousand times or none at all in a person’s life. Re-birth is of course never the end, it’s a new beginning.

All the great stories, especially the journeys of the heroes within them, share much in common. Dorothy is an archetype of what Joseph Campbell called the “Hero’s Journey”, just like Jesus, the Buddha, Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker, Hercules, Arthur, Jack and the Beanstalk and countless others throughout human history.

Dorothy shares many similarities with Jesus in the Gospel accounts. Both had questionable parentage; began life as very ordinary people; had to escape danger when very young; travelled a path that was laid out for them with an end that could not be avoided; battled many forms of evil and power; found imperfect companions who joined them on the way and who fled when trouble hit; travelled through wilderness; found a hidden power deep within that helped them transcend their experiences; eventually returned home leaving behind those same companions; finally they both took a stand for what is right and just, they stood against power. You will see similar characteristics in all the heroes of human mythos.

That said I suspect the characteristic that stands out about Dorothy, more than any other, is her desire to return home, how she learnt that this is where she belonged, that this was her hearts desire, rather than her dreams of some distant Nirvana, or Heaven or Oz. I suspect she is not alone. You see the true spiritual quest is to uncover the beauty where we find ourselves and to bring the love deep within alive in our lives. I believe that the spiritual journey is about learning to be at home, to create heaven here on earth, to bring the love alive in our lives, Dorothy says towards the end of the film that she was looking for her heart’s desire. Isn’t that what we are all looking for, our hearts desires? Isn’t this the spiritual journey, what Joseph Campbell called “Following Your Bliss”

Most folk begin their spiritual quest just like Dorothy did hoping, longing, desiring something more, but her desire like so much desire is aimless, a road to nowhere. So Glenda (The Good Witch) suggests that the best place to start is at the beginning, or what David Whyte describes as “Close in, with the first step”. Dorothy’s journey begins with the yellow brick road. This is the road that leads us home.

No path is ever straight. Dorothy on her journey met all kinds of people, each representing aspects of both the inner and outer life. The most obvious are the three that travel with Dorothy: the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion. These three were seeking brains, a heart and courage. Now don’t we all need our brains, our hearts, and to keep our nerves on our journeys? For after all isn’t it true that to live spiritually alive is to feel with all our heart, to use our minds thoughtfully and to act courageously. The spiritual life is about using our minds compassionately so that we can give our whole selves to life, in love and service for all.

The three main characters who join with Dorothy believe that they are lacking something, this is why they join her on her journey. Remember also that Dorothy misses home, something she rejected. She left home in the first place because she felt that something was missing. She ran away following some aimless desire. Now she’s in Oz though she has found an aim, to get home. In order to do so she has to find the wizard. Now don’t we all fall for the fools gold of finding a wizard or some other shinning thing that will fix our problem? Don’t we all look for answers outside of ourselves? Don’t we all miss the treasure deep within?

The four companions do eventually find the Wizard, as they arrive at the Emerald City. They ask the Wizard to give to them what they believe they lack. This he promises to do if they would kill the "Wicked Witch" and bring to him her broomstick, a task which he believes is beyond them. But of course they succeed and return to the Emerald City expecting their reward.

Despite doing all that was asked of them, the Wizard disappoints them. 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? 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.” She got her heart’s desire, she discovered her bliss.

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.

Surely this is the purpose of free religious communities. To help one another uncover our pots of gold and to let them shine.

Surely this is the purpose of the spiritual life, to learn to be at home wherever we find ourselves and to help others to do the same.

You see the truth is that Kingdom of God is already here, we just need to let it shine out of us; we just need to learn to become the light of the world; we just need to learn to follow our bliss.

So let’s stop dreaming of some other place, let’s learn instead to be at home, here now, lets learn to let out our heart’s desires and become the light of the world, the ones that we have all been waiting for.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this insight Danny. I must watch the film as i'm sure i'll now have a much greater appreciation of it.