Monday, March 17, 2014
This year marks the 75th anniversary of the release of the movie, The Wizard of Oz. The movie has been among my top five favorites since before I could even talk. Not only do I know all the songs, but if pressed, I could probably recite all the lines along with the film. I read through all of L. Frank Baum’s books at an early age. All this is to say that I can’t remember a time when I didn't identify with Dorothy Gale. I can’t remember a time when she wasn't at the top of my list of literary and film heroines.
For all the times I've watched it, there’s something I did not notice until I watched the movie (for the 837th or so time) just a couple of weeks ago. The Wicked Witch was right. You heard me. The Wicked Witch was right when, in a fit of pique, she wrote across the sky, “Surrender, Dorothy!” Sure, she had the wrong idea about the terms of Dorothy's surrender, but she was on point with the surrendering part. And, given all of Dorothy’s co-dependence on others, a good-sized surrender was imminent.
Think about it. Back on the farm, Dorothy relied on Uncle Henry and Aunt Em to deal with the ever dyspeptic Miss Gulch. She relied on farmhands Hunk, Hickory, and Zeke not just for entertainment, but to rescue her from the pigs - a predicament she got herself into. When she ran away from home, she looked to Professor Marvel for a solution. Then, when she was whisked far away and over the rainbow, just as she dreamed and wished, she still wasn't happy. All she could think about was getting back home, and she was willing to rely on any number of characters to help her. (“Helping the little lady along, are we, my fine gentlemen?”)
Dorothy ran headlong into that age-old classic truism: wherever you go, there you are.
Of course, wanting to get back home was an altruistic, albeit rather guilt-laden decision. Dorothy felt badly for how she’d treated Aunt Em by running off. She wanted to go back and make amends, be more helpful, take less for granted, in short, be a better niece. She was tenacious in her quest and undaunted by setbacks. The only time she showed any real fear was when she thought she might not be able to get back to Kansas so that she could set things right with her aunt. Also to her credit, and one of the things I love most about Dorothy, was that she wasn't put off by differences in those she knew or met. Looks or abilities or disabilities meant little to her; she accepted everyone as they were.
Even with all her good attributes, Dorothy was due a reckoning. She put all her hopes in others, left her expectations in their hands. Doing that rarely ends well - at the very least it doesn't end the way we’d like it to. Her friends helped her get to the wizard. The wizard did nothing for them but point out that they were not as flawed as they thought themselves to be. (Nothing like a little external validation to give you confidence in your abilities, huh?) He had no solid way to tell Dorothy that, and being flawed and not just a little co-dependent himself, he catered to her co-dependency by offering her a ride. Dorothy would have learned little in the end if Toto hadn't leaped from her arms, causing a Rube Goldberg effect that sent the wizard floating off without her.
That was when Dorothy gave up, completely and without any exception. She surrendered. Glinda saw that moment and seized it as an opportunity to enlighten Dorothy. “You've always had the power.” Dorothy's eyes widen in recognition of the truth (it’s subtle, but such a brilliant acting moment by Judy Garland). When pushed to reveal what she had learned, Dorothy says, “… if I ever go looking for my heart’s desire, I won't look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn't there, I never really lost it to begin with.”
We like to talk a good game about finding our desires, our passions, our joie de vivre. Yay! We found them - as if they're Easter eggs hidden from us by some Universal bunny. The truth is, they were never lost. They were never not there. We need only surrender. We need to stop looking so hard in every direction, expecting them to magically appear. We need to stop relying on every person who crosses our path to supply them. We need only surrender.
Surrender. You've had the power within you all along.