Of all of the companions traveling the yellow brick road to the Emerald City, Dorothy was certainly the most courageous. What, though, was her greatest act of courage? Slapping a lion? Confronting the Witch of the East? Acting heroically to save the Scarecrow? All of these are fine examples, but for me Dorothy's greatest act of courage was stepping out of her house and into Oz.
Her home was familiar and, despite the wild ride, seemed safe. But it was also ordinary. So ordinary, so familiar, that it was monochrome or sepia, depending on which version of the film you watch. It was safe, but it was also dull, drab, and, but for Toto, lonely.
She tentatively cracks open the door to see a land completely unfamiliar; so unfamiliar that it was in living color. This was clearly not Kansas. It was very different and, therefore, somewhat frightening. Yet she widens the crack and steps out to beauty, strangeness, and danger. That step from the safe and familiar is her first step forward. She had to leave the house to get home.
There are times in my life when I feel like I have just landed in Oz. I need to take a step out of the familiar grey and into the unfamiliar color. But that step is frightening. I don't particularly like the monochrome world, but I'm not quite ready to step over its threshold into the beautiful but frightful unknown. I timidly and hesitantly peer through the crack.
Dorothy Gale, meet Leonard Cohen.
Cohen’s song “Anthem” is a poem that resonates with me, with my paralyzing fear of the unknown that keeps me from moving forward:
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect oﬀering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
On the day after Cohen’s death, Quartz.com writer Cassie Werber, wrote an extended commentary on the chorus to “Anthem.” She quoted a Cohen interview from 1992 in which the songwriter tells us--
The future is no excuse for an abdication of your own personal responsibilities towards yourself and your job and your love. “Ring the bells that still can ring”: they’re few and far between but you can find them….
This is not the place where you make things perfect, neither in your marriage, nor in your work, nor anything, nor your love of God, nor your love of family or country. The thing is imperfect.
And worse, there is a crack in everything that you can put together: Physical objects, mental objects, constructions of any kind. But that’s where the light gets in, and that’s where the resurrection is and that’s where the return, that’s where the repentance is. It is with the confrontation, with the brokenness of things.
Change is hard for me. I put it off under the guise of waiting for a better time. I especially don't like situations where I’m confronted with the possibility of failure. Waiting for the perfect time and fear of failure amount to the same thing and produce the same results: paralysis.
Nothing in this world is perfect. Change requires the faith and courage to widen the crack, to let the light in, and to step over the threshold. I don’t want to, but unless I do life will remain colorless, and I'll never get home.
(c) 2017 Larry Pizzi
50 years of photographs and 35 years of keeping a commonplace book.