Everything You Need to Know About Life: The Wizard of Oz

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I had the unique opportunity to see the Wizard of Oz—my all-time favorite movie—on the big screen for the first time.

The novelty of the experience rivaled the first time I got to see the movie on a color TV. Before that moment, the entire experience was in black & white. (Yes, there was a time when TV was only black & white and you had to turn the volume up to drown out the sounds of the dinosaurs roaming in the yard.)

But this moment was just as magical. Seeing the performance once again, something I used to look forward to on an annual basis—when there was no such thing as “on demand”—gave me an opportunity to remember how special the whole story is.

Now, I’ve read the L. Frank Baum books about Oz, but I harbor no delusions of being a persuasive enough writer to inspire people to undertake such an adventure. Yet, I am certain I can get some to watch the movie again and consider the lessons it teaches.

If we want to raise generations of wise, kind, courageous, and curious humans, their education can be best served by merely showing them the Wizard of Oz. Maybe not as many times as I’ve seen it—my guess is at least fifty—but more than once so the wisdom can permeate their minds.

Keep in mind children are born selfish and without empathy. From the moment of their first breath, their only concern is themselves. They have no hesitation in making their demands even if their parents are exhausted, asleep, busy, ill, or otherwise unfocused on them. It is on us to teach them patience, empathy, compassion, tolerance, and self-reliance

Enter the Wizard of Oz. One can learn about all the elements of life within this production.

If you’ve seen the movie, and give it a minimal consideration, the lessons fairly jump out at you. But here’s a list in case you missed them.

A family sometimes doesn’t have a mom and dad. Sometimes, things happen and children are raised in an entirely different environment. An aunt and uncle and three caring farmhands who all contribute are as much a family as any other.

Authorities often cater to people who hold power over others, usually through wealth or property, and try to assert control over the weak. But even a tiny dog and a determined little girl can thwart such plans.

Bad things will happen. It’s how we react to these moments, not what happened, that matters. By caring for others as much as we care for ourselves, we show true humanity. And sometimes, a bit of misdirection by a kindly traveling man and his horse, Sylvester, can show a person the error of their ways.

In the face of disaster, some politicians will be nowhere to be seen. As soon as it is resolved, these absent stuffed shirts emerge to take credit and lay blame.

And right along with the politicians will be a few lawyers demanding “…but we have to verify it legally…”

Belief that someone or something has magical power over you can make a powerful prison. Until someone comes along and drops a house on the “magical” being and shows them not to be immortal. Fear of something can be a powerful jailer only if you allow it.

Whenever one needs to do something, start at the beginning. One step at a time and never give up.

Brains are overrated unless they are tempered by compassion.

And no better lesson about the joy of having a heart than the words of the Wizard himself….

“Remember, my sentimental friend, we are judged not by how much we love, but by how much we are loved by others.”

Wizard of Oz

Courage isn’t something shown by those who are unafraid but by those who act despite their fear.

When you reach a crossroads, you can often find help from the most unexpected places and the least expected people. Therefore, one should always be open to new possibilities.

If one is willing to deprive another of their life for your own selfish purpose you will suffer the unintended consequences of your greed.

Something pleasing to the eye is not always good for us.

Never be afraid to challenge someone, even if they command armies of flying monkeys. The simplest things often defeat the mighty.

And a corollary to the last item, never keep the source of your own destruction nearby.

Just because someone appears in your life as if by magic—or on a conveyance you have never seen before—is no reason to bestow a position of authority. Not even a Wizard Deluxe.

But keep in mind, even a humbug, a fraud, a wizard of smoke and mirrors, can be a good person just not a good wizard or any other manner of leader.

And most importantly, we all possess the power to go home, even if that home no longer exists. We can return to our roots and realize that what we most desire is often no further away than our own backyard. It may not be the same for all of us, yet that is the power of the story. Home is indeed where the heart is.

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3 thoughts on “Everything You Need to Know About Life: The Wizard of Oz

  1. Many astute observations in this essay, Joe B. Overall quite uplifting.

    Being both a politician and a lawyer, I must point out the contributions of those folks to the organization and operation of a just and uplifting civic society. Right now, as our communities and nation are under grave threat from anti-democratic facists, we see clearly the importance of those contributions.

    There are good and bad among all professions. We must support the good, and hold accountable the bad.

    1. John, my apologies for going after the low hanging fruit. Of course the overwhelming majority of politicians and lawyers contribute to the overall well being of society.

      As a defense attorney friend of of mine (Tom Briody) was fond of saying, “The biggest civil libertarian in the world is a cop that gets arrested.”
      Again, I needed a villain beside the witch and (bad) lawyers and politicians are harder to melt and easier to dislike.

  2. P.S. In light of John Murphy’s astute observation of my mis-characterizing all lawyers and politicians as evil, I have adjusted the piece accordingly.

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