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Home is Where the Dog Is

For the past ten years, I have been using The Wizard of Oz to teach mythology, fairy tales, and Eastern philosophies to my college Literature students, sometimes three classes per semester, three semesters per year. In recent years, rather than paying attention to the plot and effects, I have been taking greater note of my students' responses to the Oz journey. Once Dorothy hooks up with her companions and skips along the yellow brick road (surely a symbol of the third chakra, the "I am" of individual existence), we see how each character mistakenly seeks an object like a heart or a brain, thinking it will render him complete. Actually it is not the object but a chakra, an integral part of the whole that the character thinks he's missing. Of course we know that no parts are missing; the chakras are there but the characters have not been fully awakened to them. This pretty much parallels the way so many of us live our lives in the mundane world which dulls the senses with extraneous noise and frivolous concerns. Sadly, it often takes a tragedy -- in this case, Dorothy's isolation from home and desperate need for familiarity -- to awaken us to what is truly important in our short lives. Enter the four-legged angel.

In this film, who leads us to and through that awakening? TOTO, the dog. The dog, the same creature that unites us in this blogosphere. Toto is the emissary of the Divine who propels us into higher consciousness . What prompts Dorothy's escape from home in the first place? It was Toto's mischievous exploration of Elmira Gulch's garden. When Dorothy is captured and imprisoned by the Wicked Witch of the West, who leads the trio of her companions fearlessly to the tower of her confinement (a symbol of her subconscious self)? Who ultimately unmasks the Wizard as a shameful fraud? And who prevents Dorothy from taking the slacker's way home in a hot air balloon? Toto, who leaps out as the balloon ascends, forcing Dorothy out after him, so she must use her third eye (brow chakra) and visualization skills to will herself home, learning the lesson that there are no fields greener than our own and no wizards greater than ourselves. Toto as the animal guide transports her to higher planes, her spiritual teacher in every regard.

Over the years, I've been monitoring students' responses to the characters and notice that they differ markedly from mine. Overwhelmingly, they identify the Cowardly Lion as their favorite character, relating, perhaps, to his humorous expression of anxiety. I, however, get drippy as a toilet every time Dorothy bids a sad farewell to the Scarecrow, her first and completely unselfish, loyal protector (and I've seen this film over a hundred times). OK, go ahead, point out how this translates into my own life, or more accurately, my deepest wishes for such devotion in my own life.

This is exactly what I invite you to do for yourself at the Crystal Garden in Boynton Beach on October 22. I will be conducting a Wizard of Oz workshop to explore mythology, symbolism, and the archetypes that teach us where we most need to heal. We will discuss the chakra system, Joseph Campbell, then watch the film and analyze why we resonate with particular characters and scenes. This will be a fun and enlightening way to spend an afternoon.
I hope to see you there. Feel free to call me at 954-680-5759 or the Crystal Garden at 561-369-2836 for more information.


Pam N said…
Oh Lisa, I wish I lived in Fl! I never once thought about any symbolism in that movie! I want to watch it with you!

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