April 30, 2017
I have been remembering “The Wizard of Oz,” how Dorothy killed the first witch when her house fell on her. No court could convict her of homicide, but Dorothy gets her ruby slippers and is off to see the Wizard. At the end, she kills another witch accidentally by protecting Toto from the witch’s burning broom. Again, her act was unintentional homicide. Still, wherever this girl goes, trouble follows. And so do three chance-met friends who badly want something.
When they do meet the Wizard and ask for what they desire, the Cowardly Lion wants courage and gets a huge medal, the Tin Man gets a heart, a ticking heart-shaped watch, and when the Scarecrow receives a diploma representing brains, he immediately says, “E=mc squared.” They were happy because they had a lot of faith in such symbols. All of us tend to believe that the symbol is a truthful indication of worth or ability.
What does that expensive car indicate? The highest-tech phone, designer clothes, our name on a university building, a 3-karet diamond ring, a house with the brick pizza oven in a commercial-grade kitchen, the best season tickets to the local pro basketball team games, luxury travel to far-away places, Country Club membership, etc.: Do these symbols that wealth can buy mean anything?
Bought with effort as well as money: the gold medal, the letters following a name, the corner room with a view in the office building, speech patterns that demonstrate knowledge of the difference between the verbs to lie and to lay, doing New York Times crossword puzzles in ink, having read at least two thirds of any list of 200 books people “ought to read,” deep knowledge, speaking engagements, elected office, civic recognition, etc. Does our worth need recognition by others?
Some of our most valued personal traits may never “show.” We may spend a life being a good listener, generous with our time, helpful, kind, patient, honest, true, and quietly excellent at parenting. We may get little fame or public notice, few or no awards, but our unseen efforts can bring deep happiness because joy doesn’t depend on other people’s ratings, notice, or approval. Who doesn’t like praise? But traits of persevering, understanding, working hard, loving family, thinking of others and being patient without too much self-criticism help us be happy with or without someone’s notice. “Do your best” is the Cub Scout motto. While visible symbols or recognition give a fleeting fix, doing our best to have integrity and love is more satisfying, longer lasting and leads us to peace. PMA.