Lions, tigers, and bears… oh my

Dorothy has escaped the “gray” world of life. She had lived with her aunt and uncle on their “gray” farm where the sun beat down on “the great gray prairie”, baking the ground, dulling the house, and transforming Aunt Em, the once “young, pretty wife” into someone who was gaunt and unsmiling, and in fact wondered how Dorothy could ever find “anything to laugh at.” Aunt Em was not alone, Uncle Henry was just as gray, solemn, and unlaughing. Tornado or not, Dorothy, was glad to be free from that gray place and in this new wonderful world of vibrant color.

Of course, with color, as with all times of increased clarity, came some hard realizations. In her gray existence she did not have to deal with the real monsters of the world. Now she is alive, but she is also sentient of the fact that there are witches and whole classes of people who are enslaved to them. Perhaps now the boredom of the farm is preferable to the reality of this post-Civil War analogical world to which Baum’s character has suddenly awakened.

The slaves of course are the populace. The wicked witches, of the West and the East, respectively represent the hard life of drought and struggle found on the western prairie and the enslaving bankers, corporations, and other debt holders from the East who kept the farmers in fiscal bonds. These are truly bone-chilling entities to the late 1800s middle American. Thankfully, Dorothy is not alone in this journey where she will face these evils. She is however, observant to that which Aunt Em and Uncle Henry, the boring dullards, had kept from her, and what she now sees is not pleasant. So, having companions will be great.

Who are these companions?

First, is the absent-minded, literally, straw man. Here is one who stands where told playing the part of a man without quite being one. He can do little to no good. All his bluster will not withstand an enemy, he has no ability to logically think through the issues of the moment, and eventually, unless periodically moved by a farmer, of whom he is a less than mediocre representation, even the birds will cease to take him seriously.

The second companion is a tin man, a woodsman by trade. Why, this is exactly the sort of man one would hope to find in difficult times like this! Who could be better than a salt-of-the-earth laborer? Surely, his common sense, work ethic, and down-home morality will come in handy.

Yet, this man is not quite as useful as we would hope, for piece by piece, his limbs have been replaced by machinery, mechanisms that require constant oiling lest they shut down. (Some may argue that this was not a man that was converted to machine over time but that he was originally built as a system that resembled human but that was not quite so. Either way, the danger of systems that appear human, but are in fact machine, where the system becomes prioritized to the point that humanity is swallowed up in mechanics, is apparent. Such systems demand the constant oiling of political maneuver, for they will lock up without it, and serve themselves to the detriment of others.)

Poor Dorothy. Two almost worthless companions and now she is facing the thought of what might happen were she to encounter “lions, and tigers, and bears, oh my!”

But wait, a roar from the underbrush and here enters the third companion. He is one with great promise. He has a fully functioning logic, is a formidable opponent indeed, and requires no oiling to maintain his function. This is it the hero she needs. Capable, available, and a perfect match to defend her along the journey. Who knows what else he could do? Why, a lion might even kill a witch!

Wait! He is lacking one thing. Courage. He has all the necessary tools, he can think his way through the issues, he can recognize a threat, and if he would only act, he could truly be heroic. Yet, without courage the majestic lion is rendered of less use than a house cat. What a sad state of affairs.

Before we leave Dorothy with this impotent troupe, let’s take a look at what they need. The straw man needs a brain. That is something that he cannot gain for himself. A brain, intelligence, can only be endowed by a creator and knowledge must come through a teacher, author, or tutor. Yes, the straw man is unable to help himself.

What of the tin man? He needs a heart. He needs humanity. Once again something must be given to him from a benevolent interventionist. Mechanisms do not become human; they must be made so. The tin man also is unable to help himself.

That leaves us with the lion. He does not need a heart or brain, things that must be given him. He needs courage, and in this realization, we find hope. Courage. Courage is not given, it is mustered. Courage is not bestowed, it is decided. Courage appears from within the moment that a person decides that what is right matters more than what is expedient. Courage is the fruit, not of fear being absent, but of knowing that facing oneself as a coward is far worse than dying doing what matters.

Courage is the unnamed platoon leader, quoted by General Mattis, telling his men, “We don’t get to choose when we die,” he said. “But we do choose how we meet death.”

The danger in this hour is not that we have too many systems that cannot be humanized, or too many who are lacking in knowledge and education that they have never been afforded opportunity to seek. The danger we face is that we have too many who know what needs to be done, but are not choosing courage.

I do not write to stir empathy in the chest of the tin-plated mechanisms of church and society, nor do I chide the ignorance of the unlearned. I write to you, lion. You have what it takes. You know what needs to be done. You know what is required of a leader in your position, of a parent in this hour, of a Christian in this world.

You know that courage is what you need. The only question that remains is whether you will choose it.

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