I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Smoke and mirrors

When I was a very little girl, well before my tenth birthday, my parents took both my sister Norma Jean and me to see The Wizard of Oz. My distant memory of it was of being amazed by the change between the black and white portion of the movie and the red shoes with subsequent technicolor. Before the movie had ended, however, my parents told us, when we were grown, that we had to be taken out of the theater because we were both so frightened by it. We didn't stay long enough to see the Wizard's smoke and mirrors, as in this picture. Of course, I've since seen the movie dozens of times and enjoyed it, especially the premise of it: that somewhere behind all the smoke and mirrors is a harmless little man who wants everyone to believe that he's strong and powerful. He used these devices to make himself seem larger and more frightening than he really was.

I remember once, talking on the phone to my mom about what was happening in the world at the time (she died in 1993, so it must have been in the late 1980s or early 1990s), her saying to me that big awful changes are coming to the world. She said that she wouldn't live to see it, but I would. That was twenty years ago. What major changes have come about since then?

The first one that comes to mind is how small the world has become. Because of the internet and the changes in the speed of connectivity, cellphones, iPhones and the like, we are constantly connected to the world and what is occurring all over the world. And the world is constantly changing. I tried a few weeks ago to stop reading the news, but I couldn't. Thinking it would make me feel better to take a "news fast," I tried but failed to become disconnected to all that's going on. I'm sitting here at 6:30am on a Sunday morning, still in bed, drinking tea and writing on my laptop, connected to the larger world.

This particular blog was started because I wanted to find out what I still want to accomplish in my life, find out who I am by looking at how I got here. Well, I think I've done that, and I'm looking for a reason to keep on writing here. I've got a few ideas, but the one that keeps coming back up to the surface is the whole idea of the change that's coming, that Mama warned me about, that I feel in my bones.

Part of what's driving it, other than knowing instantly what's happening in Bangkok or Baghdad, is the sheer number of people on the planet today. When I was born, the world population was around 2.5 billion. Next year, the world will pass the 7 billion mark. That's three times the number of people! I can feel it, too. I remember a world that didn't have strip malls as far as the eye can see. In the United States, the population has more than doubled since I was little. Since the change has been gradual, I haven't got any way to measure when it began to feel crowded, but now everywhere seems that way.

In the 1980s, I remember being disgusted at all the beautiful places in Boulder being torn down for apartments and houses to replace open space. I thought it was just in Boulder that it was happening, and I could move somewhere that was more like it used to be. But that's just not true. All those extra people had to have jobs, somewhere to live, places to shop. That is everywhere in the world today.

This all brings me back to the idea of the Wizard of Oz. Although he was in the end a benign entity, I always believed that somebody, somewhere, was in charge. That behind the smoke and mirrors we would find a reason for the insanity that we are going through, worldwide. Today there is a huge catastrophic oil leak that will change my world forever. People are being blown up because of an idea that I just don't understand. There is nobody in charge, and we are all just trying to survive from one day to the next in the best way we know how.
Perhaps this is why so many of us turn to the solace that is within us, because returning to the Emerald City, looking for the Wizard, can only be found there. The good parts of life are intermingled with the fear that we all feel for our future.  I want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem, and I'm not sure where to go from here.


The Retired One said...

A great post! Loved it!!!

Anonymous said...

I guess that's why you look forward to your Senior hikes with like minded individuals. For a few hours, at least, you are transported to the beauty and serenity of nature...

Whitney Lee said...

I love this movie. It's one of my best memories of my sister and mom and I when I was young-piled up in my parents bed watching this on a lazy weekend afternoon.

My husband turned on the 11 news last night and after watching about the oil spill for a couple of minutes I had to change the channel. I just can't do it; it's too depressing. I don't know what the change is, DJan, or what role I'll play. I know that your mom was right and big changes are coming. I'm hoping that we will finally realize we are all part of a whole, all connected, and what we do to hurt one only hurts us. How to cause this realization is the problem. I'm opening my eyes and ears and heart, hoping that I will be receptive to whatever possible answer I'm given.

I love this blog and am curious to see where you go from here...

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

It does feel like we're making Earth uninhabitable for humans, or for the huge numbers of humans trying to live here. You have the right idea, spending lots of time in the mostly unspoiled wilderness and living consciously.

Linda Reeder said...

I don't know if the change that is certainly coming is a BIG change of just the slow, steady change that is always occuring. Each decision by every human adds to that gradual change. We have to be careful of who we choose to make the big decisions that lead to bigger changes.
I feel that we are gradually wearing out and using up our planet. American superiority is waning. We will all have to compete for the world's resources. Can we learn to share?
Meanwhile I find my solace in nature, feeling fortunate that I still have beauty around me.

CrazyCris said...

Very interesting post.

I've managed to turn off the news... by mostly turning off the TV or forgetting when the news is on! :p
But the bad news is like a bad penny, keeps coming back, find its way into my consciousness, and it's depressing! I read somewhere about a series of websites and newspapers that only reported "good news" to help give people a more positive view on the world, I'll have to look it up and report back to you!

And yes, the world feels so much smaller than just a decade ago! What finally did it for me was Skype and Facebook... (I was as bad at e-mailing as I was at writing regular letters to my friends)

Norma Jean said...

YIKES!! I am sorry to hear I am not the only one feeling this sense of impending doom. The world cannot go on the way it is right now without something catastrophic happening to change its course. I am not sure I want to know what will happen. It is getting harder and harder to watch all the craziness that is happening, but I agree that it is also hard not to stay informed. It is quite the conundrum.

CiCi said...

By voicing your concerns you have taken a step and have begun being part of a solution even if you don't know what that is right now. At least that is how I see it. I feel like you do that there are so many things going on and I don't know how to stop some and get others to change direction. I want so much for the world to be a safe place for every one of us and I know that is an impossible dream.

Jo said...

I remember being frightened by The Wizard of Oz too, and I still have those feelings every time I watch it. The most frightening part for me was Dorothy being separated from her family.

And yes, I think the reason so many people are turning back to fundamentalism in their religions is to try to recapture some of the simple life that we have lost. It's as if we are on a runaway train, and we can't stop it.

If anyone wants to know who is in charge, just follow the money.

Lucy said...

Being part of the solution.... Is being real and honest on your posts part of the solution? I think so. Except more folks need to be involved in truth and honesty and plain caring about one another.

California Girl said...

ah well, who is in charge? perhaps Jo is right and it's only the corporations. or perhaps it is the politicians who create policy, or the legislature who enacts laws. i prefer to think we, the people, are still in charge. our biggest problem is not exercising our voice, our combined voting clout. much as i am not on the side of the Tea Baggers, I appreciate the pr they get and know this can be put to good use particularly if it's for a good and reasonable cause.

Boomer outrage helped end the Viet Nam war. We've been in Iraq too long. We're in Afghanistan. We may end up in No Korea (again). We are the only ones who can end this and we do it be letting the politicians and the corporations know "we're mad as hell and not going to stand it any more."

We are still in charge.

Jen said...

Those flying monkeys were scary!

I have a hard time not watching the news, too. The oil spill is making me angrier by the minute.

Stella Jones said...

I like a lot of escapism, me. Can't bear to think of all those chickens cooped up! in little cages just so I can eat a nice egg for my breakfast. It doesn't seem right. Like you I don't like to see the open spaces disappearing, but it's much worse in Europe. We really are short of space over there now. I don't know where it will all end. Just keep praying and hoping and trying not to make the world any worse.
I never saw the Wizard of Oz at the cinema, but I do remember balling my eyes out when Bambi's mother died in the film Bambi. According to my mother, I was inconsolable.
My mother died in 1992.
Blessings, Star

Far Side of Fifty said...

Well who ever is in charge is doing a piss poor job. This is my third week not listening to CNN ..I think I was on news overload. I catch some news on the net..and The Today Show in the early morning..it might be escapism on my part..what ever happen to the good news..all the goods news has gone away or died..and all that oil ..that is sad , sad, sad. Someone needs to do something that should have been done 29 days ago. C'mon Obama..Louisiana needs someone to save them..oh politics, so frustrating.
Your Mama was right DJan the world is changing..and not for the better either:(