Thursday, February 12, 2009

Lions and Tigers and Bears - oh my!

Ya'll remember The Wizard of Oz, right? Remember Dorothy's companions? Lion, Tinman, and Scarecrow. Of all the characters in literature, these three represent - allegorically, metaphorically - the basic archetypes of humanity. Lion had heart but no courage. Tinman had brains but no heart, and Scarecrow had courage but no brains. I could find the pages & passages to justify my interpretation of the text, but it would only be a waste of time. If you're not following me by now, you'll never get the point.

Anyways, most people are Tinman. They're educated. They're assembly line-workers put together be assembly-line workers. From high-school to college to married to kids, whether it be in a cubicle or a factory. But they have no heart; they cannot have true emotions because all of their existence is tied up doing the same thing over & over - gas prices, kids, credit-card debts, rent, "how long has it been since we had sex?" - and its taken away their ability to really feel.

Then comes Scarecrow. These are the ignorant good-natured folk from the country. They live in small towns. They farm, watch the super-bowl, and generally think America is the greatest country on Earth. They don't delve too deeply into politics or other current issues. They have opinions but no reasons for them other than convention. They're the ones who fight in the army, navy, etc. They're the ones who stand out in the middle of everything and get torn to pieces in their ignorance, because like the namesake, angry flying monkies just don't register as a threat.

Finally there's Lion. This one might seem misleading, but Lion represents social movements: activists, enviromentalists, feminists, protestors, anti-consumerism, anti-globalization - liberals and leftists. They have such passion for their causes, and often enough, this eloquence is mistaken for intelligence too. They feel so strongly about how the world SHOULD be run, but when push comes to shove, they fold. You can hear them roar for a better world, but when the time comes to actually fight for it, work for it, make it happen, all they can do is cower, muttering something about better things to do. (You might contradict this by pointing out the many successful social movements, but these are different in that they incorporate individuals who embody these ideals, instead of adopting them because they're so fucking opinionated... kind of like me.)

In fact, I could extrapolate this out so that Tinman represents emo kids. Scarecrow could be a soldier. Lion would be almost every politician in the world. Frank L. Baum's story offers a multitude of opportunities for methaphor and allegory. That's tbe beauty of great literature - it allows for different interpretations. Even if some of them are wrong.

But when it comes to truly understanding humanity, there is no metaphor or allegory. There are no examples or lesson-plans. Experience is the best teacher, and even that is uncertain at best. Because reality is way too complicated for a complete picture. There aren't enough words or colors to contain it all. No one piece can represent everything that exists in the world. No one truth is the whole.

But, damn, FLB sure got close.

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