The Quest for What We Lack

For some strange reason, the Tin Man from “The Wizard of Oz” kept coming intotinmanwizoz5.jpg my head this morning, saying, “If I only had a heart…”    And I of course assumed my subconscious was referring to the large “Orange One” on stage with all his daily ranting and conspiratorial lunacy. Yes, if HE only had a heart instead of that huge black hole swirling in his voluminous body.

But, he doesn’t.

So then my mind continued the “Wiz of OZ” analogy with the Cowardly Lion, who must be Congress, right?  If Congress only had the courage to stand up for our democracy’s constitution.  Yes, if only.

wizoz70thannOkay by now I’m paying attention and trying to determine who the other main players are in this mind-game parody.  Who is left: the Scarecrow, Dorothy and Toto, the Wiz himself, besides the witches good and bad, and Auntie Em.   Cheering Munchkins and Flying Monkeys must be all the rest of us, I assume, maybe representing our good and bad angels.

To me the main message of “The Wizard of Oz” depicts the search for self-awareness—where all characters set out to find the qualities that they think they lack in themselveslike the quest for self-knowledge and self-actualization.  And if we were to carry this into our present situation, I’d have to say that I think the large “Orange One” is too self-consumed to ever be self-aware, so I’ll make the analogous connections for him.

Back to matching characters to our current situation, I think Toto—the little dog—is Dorothy’s subconscious trying to guide her back to safety and sanity.

The Scarecrow was looking for a brain, right?  Or did he just represent innocence and ignorance? Who could that be, eh?  I know who I think it represents but I hate to say it here, so you’ll just have to guess.sepiadorothy6.png

But who is Dorothy?  Dorothy who searches to find who she really is and to make her way back “HOME” –who does Dorothy represent?  I think Dorothy represents the American ideal of who we are as a people trying to find our way back to being compassionate human beings who believed in fairness, equality, and the right to self-determination.

Then what does the Wizard lack and who does he represent?  Hmmm.  Well, in the show he’s a con-man.  He’s a fraud.  He pretends to know all the answers.  He tricks people.  He wizbehindcurtain67.jpgruns a phony operation to gain respect and demand adulation, but he is basically insecure and impotent.  Hmmmm. Who could that be??????

Perhaps the Prez can play two parts in this mind-parody: Tin Man and Oz Wiz.

So that leaves the good and bad witches and Auntie Em left to assess.

The witch dichotomy is dependent on your political affiliation, so I’ll leave that for personal consideration, but Auntie Em, … the maternal figure who is Dorothy’s stand-in auntieemsymbol45mother during these harsh-life conditions—who represents the safety and security of a stable, can’t–be-blown-away-by-a-tornado HOME.

She could be the symbol of Lady Liberty—the American ideological standard bearer, don’t you think?  Auntie Em as Lady Liberty.  “Bring me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”  Yes, I can see that.

So, let’s bring it home here ourselves:  What is it that we the citizens of this once great country lack here, that we keep searching for in all the wrong places, …with all the wrong characters?

That’s a really good question.

characterscartoonwizozWhat do we feel that we aren’twhat do we feel that we lack—that we are trying so hard to make up for by being so gullible and naïve to believe a guy who stands behind the curtain, pulling levers and pushing buttons to make as much chaos as possible for us in our world?

Maybe as a nation of people searching for true, wise leadership, we feel that we lack genuine moral character ourselves and keep trying to find it in others who only play facsimiles of those roles on television.

[Moral character: The concept of character can imply a variety of attributes including the existence or lack of virtues such as empathy, courage, fortitude, honesty, and loyalty, or of good behaviors or habits.” ]

Yes, I think we fear that as individuals we do lack moral character and instead we look for quality leadership in others to help us make it through more challenging times, rather than believing in ourselves to rise above whatever difficulties we might face.

The main problem for many of us in today’s world is that we have no idea where the attributes of moral character and quality leadership can be found, but I’m pretty sure that they aren’t behind that curtain with the Wiz. youhadthepowerallalong6.png

Let’s look in the mirror instead, because I think the entire point of “The Wizard of Oz” show was to say that’s where genuine moral character and self-determination were to be found all along.

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A Short Story Collection of Rick Bass

Rick Bass.jpgShort stories capture little vignettes of life as compared to a novel’s more-lengthy theme exposition and character development.  A good short story is every bit as difficult for a writer to master as is a good novel because you have far fewer pages to make your point and show your world view. It requires great clarity of vision and a high degree of literary skill. In other words, it takes discipline.

Do NOT consider short stories as the Reader’s Digest version of a novel. They are very different genre and as such offer a unique and rewarding reading experience. To me they are like browsing a buffet of favorite foods all stretched out before you to sample a bit of this, and then try a little of that until eventually you’ve sated your appetite. This book is the buffet grazer’s banquet.

And as mentioned previously, I really love a good writer—a word-magician who can string a few random syllables into multi-dimensional prose with such ease and grace that is effortless to read while being transformative in the process.For a LIttle While

This book I’m now exalting is called FOR A LITTLE WHILE: New and Selected Stories of Rick Bass.

As a short-story writer, Rick Bass could be the resultant love-child of Jack London coupled with Ernest Hemingway—birthed and nurtured by a Jungian midwife. His writing style is succinct, precise, sensory stimulating; and often depicts his characters’ intimate, dependent relationship with their environment.

Bass often shows how the environment has shaped each of the characters in his stories because the characters and the land itself often seem interchangeable with and indistinguishable from each other.

As a writer he subtly captures the depth of human interaction/emotions by describing actions (it’s what you DO, not what you SAY that counts). A character’s speech or dialogue might reveal conscious, flowing thought but actions reveal the unconscious motivations at work that drive the plot (and the life).

Overall I think Rick Bass really goes places that most writers never go—into the psychological core of basic human belief that drives their behavior—a spiritual connection to the land, which he often then parallels to animals of the same region.

tree tops.jpgIn fact in this collection of stories, there is an overwhelming oneness of every living thing interacting with their environment. That natural interdependency is often ignored in the prose of other writers—perhaps because of other writers not recognizing it. Bass, however, reveals the basic matrix of life itself—exposing the soft underbelly—with all its species interconnections and dependencies.

But more importantly is that as a really good writer he does it all so simply and elegantly—and that’s what just blows me away.

He doesn’t get salacious with his story line. He doesn’t go all horrific or deranged. He takes a rustic setting with simple born-of-the-earth people and examines each character’s internal machinations that translate into daily doings in such a way that it reveals WHO those characters are as human beings.

He shows the reader that WHAT his characters are swans on lake.jpgdoing in response to life’s challenges and grind are reflective of WHO they are; but it also helps us to see WHY that should matter to any of us. Bass deftly unveils how our simplest daily actions define our lives—it frames how we view each other, discloses how we treat each other, and clarifies what true life-lessons are learned during our journey here, whether separately or together.

rooted humanYou won’t read a Bass line claiming that life is fair or unfair; only that it is LIFE with all its beauty, tumbles, and bruises. He frequently shows how those strongly-rooted-to-the-land individuals derive their very life-essence from the land itself—how those “firmly planted humans” with feet to shuffle rather than burrowing filaments can more easily flow with and/or resist the life challenges that might test us lesser humans to the limit of our strength and stamina.

Anyway, I could go on and on here, but I think the book is a great short-story collection, especially for nature-lovers. The writer, Rick Bass is a phenomenal talent, and I’ll be reading more of his offerings soon.th

It comes as no surprise that he is an environmentalist.  He writes of nature and the land that supports us like an adulating lover extolling his beloved’s attributes.