Saturday, May 18, 2013

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Today I've been thinking about the Wizard of Oz. A conversation I had a few weeks ago sparked me to think about the deeper meanings and messages in the story in ways that I've never really thought of before, and it's actually incredibly deep. There are lots of different aspects to it, but I want to talk about just one.

I've always really related to the song "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" because I've so often felt trapped and suffocated by reality. I don't think I'm alone in that. I've found in conversations with people that many of our deepest emotional problems come from staring in the face a reality we never wanted and contrasting it to the beautiful ideals we imagine in our minds. For me, one of those ideals has always been the specter of what it means to be "normal." I saw other guys so naturally developing feelings for girls, loving sports, and getting along so well with each other. Their normalcy evaded me completely. I only had feelings for men, which caused deep shame. I never liked sports. I felt like I could never fit in with other guys, because I felt so completely abnormal. And I dreamed of somewhere over the rainbow where I could be like them. Where I could be normal.

The beginning of the Wizard of Oz is in black and white. When Dorothy is singing about wanting be somewhere different, her world seems so simple and boring. And the interesting thing to me is that once she lands in Oz, everything is in full color, but it's nothing like the "over the rainbow" she dreamed of. The the first thing that happens is she lands on someone and kills them. And then she's met by a good witch (aren't witches all supposed to be bad?) She meets a smart scarecrow who things he has no brain, a loving tin man who thinks he has no heart, and brave lion who thinks he has no courage. They all think their problems will be solved by finding the Wizard, but he ends up being a hoax and they have to solve their problems on their own. The land of technicolor is anything but simple. It's filled with complexities and difficulties of which Dorothy had never before dreamed.

The lyrics from the song "Wonderful" in Wicked get to the point I'm driving at:

A Man's called a traitor or liberator
A rich man's a thief or philanthropist.
Is one a crusader or ruthless invader?
It's all in which label is able to persist.
There are precious few at ease with moral ambiguities,
So we act as though they don't exist.

I've found that for myself believing that there is some fantasy "over the rainbow" only leads me away from what really brings peace, which as an acceptance of the complexity and ambiguity that is a life in technicolor.

I really love what Brene Brown said in her Ted Talk about vulnerability. She said that "Religion has gone from a belief in faith and mystery to certainty. I'm right, you're wrong. Shut up. That's it. Just certain." This mentality also seems to stem into politics, where it all seems to devolve into argumentation and polarization. And I'm far from guiltless of it. But I think that it's dangerous, because it's not in line with the reality of life.

And the reality that I find over and over is that life is deeply complex. It's not as simple as just finding somewhere beyond the rainbow where all of our dreams come true. Because even if all of my dreams came true, I don't think I'd be completely happy. Happiness, I think, comes from something deeper and more substantive than wish fulfillment. In my experience, it comes from being okay with who you are, and trying to improve where you can. Acceptance of reality is vital.


  1. Nice thoughts, Josh. I also find the most fulfillment when I accept complexity. Life gets crazy when I think I know more or less than I do. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Well written Josh. I'm so proud of you and who you are becoming! I look forward to the exciting changes that are before you. Love, Jordan