Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Friday, June 16, 2006

Am I Off to See The Wizard This Way?

by Kerry Blair

I have a pair of ruby slippers. (Okay, so they’re glitter-covered plastic, but they’re red and shiny and very cool just the same.) I don’t usually wear them to Enrichment Night or the grocery store, but I do keep them handy because, like Dorothy, I want to go home someday.

I think The Wizard of Oz is a metaphor for life. (But then I tend to think too much, generally.) L. Frank Baum’s characters searched for the strengths we all need to make it back to our heavenly home. The Scarecrow needed a brain. Don’t we all? For one thing, we need to be smart enough to stay on the yellow brick road instead of wandering off into orchards where we’re likely to be pelted by bad apples. (Prophets tend to call this avenue the straight and narrow path—less colorful, but more to the point.) The Tin Man sought a heart. There’s nothing more important to get us home. President Hinckley said, “Love is the very essence of life. In a changing world, it is a constant—a beacon of hope in a world of distress.”

The Cowardly Lion was looking for courage. Me, too. (I do, after all, have 24-hr access to CNN. Shiver.) But the scriptures tell us that if we’re prepared, we shall not fear. Are we? Prepared, I mean. To be prepared we have to recognize in advance that there are things in Oz (and the world) to look out for. Remember that beautiful field of flowers? If you left the path to rest in the poppies you fell asleep and lost all interest in who you were and where you were going in the first place. At the time Baum wrote Dorothy’s adventures in Oz, opium was the most pernicious drug in the world. Opium, as you probably know, is made from poppies. Baum warned a century ago: stay away from poison poppies. Not bad advice today.

Other things Baum cautioned about are wicked witches and flying monkeys. To me the Wicked Witch represents occult and true evil, something most of us don’t have too much trouble recognizing, avoiding, and perhaps even evaporating. It’s those rotten flying monkeys that get us. When I use my Oz metaphor in speaking to youth, I ask someone to come up and hold a large picture of the Savior. Then I ask everyone in the room to concentrate on the picture for just fifteen seconds. All they have to do is focus on that picture and think about nothing else. Then I step a few feet away, wait two or three more seconds, and pull a stuffed monkey out of my bag. I activate a screeching voice box within it and toss it deep into the audience. Believe me, everybody looks away from the picture of Christ and at the “flying monkey” instead. It’s human nature. Unfortunately, it’s human nature to be distracted by metaphorical flying monkeys as well. There are millions of them. We call them television, movies, sports, work, money, power, fame—whatever distracts us enough to make us look away from the Savior, if only briefly.

I can go on. (And on. And on. And on. I’m like that.) But I’ll only make one more comparison. The Emerald City reminds me of the spacious building in Lehi’s dream. It looks beautiful and bright and seems like a whole lot of fun, but while it’s dazzling on the outside, it’s a sham within. No power there. No promises. A few laughs, maybe, but no lasting joy. No wonder Dorothy still wanted to go home.

And here's the funny thing about that: Despite what she thought, despite her fears and struggles and insecurities, the little farm girl from Kansas had within herself the ability to fulfill her dream all along. When she’d successfully completed her mission, going home turned out to be the easy part. And thus it can be with us. No power on Oz (or earth) is stronger than our power to pray, repent, persevere, and progress. If we have faith in the plan, stick together, and stay on the straight and narrow yellow brick road, there's nowhere to go but home.

The ruby slippers are just a fashion statement.


At 6/16/2006 12:23 PM, Anonymous Jennie Hansen said...

Kerry, you actually have me liking the Wizard of Oz. I've been known to go into hiding when kids or grandkids watch that dumb movie. I dislike the movie so much, I never bothered to read the book (except an abbreviated board book.) Now I just might have to. You have an incredible talent for finding a deeper message in all you read, in movies, and in life in general and writing about them in a way that makes them of more worth than I suspect the author intended. I think I'll copy your blog, if you don't mind, stick it in my scripture case and have it handy for those inevitable occassions when I get called on for a spur of the moment talk or thought.

At 6/16/2006 12:56 PM, Blogger Cheri said...

Very well-written and thought-provoking. =) Makes me wonder how often I've been blindsided by flying monkeys. It also makes me wonder where I can find my own pair of ruby slippers.

At 6/16/2006 8:26 PM, Anonymous OCD Librarian said...

Silver slippers. Only the ones in the movie were ruby. In the book, they were silver.

At 6/16/2006 9:32 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

Thanks for breaking that to Jennie & Cheri, ocd librarian. Very disappointing, huh ladies? But I'm with the movie producers, the ruby slippers look waaay better in Technicolor!

If you're only going to read one Oz book, Jennie, my favorite is Ozma of Oz. For months I begged my family to call me Ozma. Alas...


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