Happiness in your own backyard

If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard. Because if it isn’t there….then I never really lost it to begin with.

–Dorothy Gale, The Wizard of Oz

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It’s not a big secret to anyone who knows me– The Wizard of Oz is my perennial favorite movie. It’s entered family lore–my parents bought a copy in the early eighties, when VHS tapes were $80+, so I could watch it as a toddler, because it was the only thing that I would actually watch (read: sit still for an extended period of time). When it was over, I burst into tears. Probably because it was over.

Anyway, having watched this movie now for 32+ years, I think there’s a message in it that would do a lot of people good–all of us, actually. The idea that happiness isn’t something that is “over the rainbow.” It’s right here.

At the beginning of the movie, Aunt Em tells Dorothy to find a place where she won’t get into trouble, since everyone else is busy working on the Kansas farm. Dorothy sings “Over the Rainbow”, wondering where this mythical place without trouble is. At first, she thinks it’s Oz. But trouble–big trouble–arrives a lot faster than she would have imagined.

At the end of the movie, when the Tin Man asks her what she’s learned about Oz, she gives the quote I used above:

If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard. Because if isn’t there….I never really lost it to begin with

Back in Kansas, when she’s explaining what happened to her, she says, “Some of it was beautiful. But just the same I kept telling everyone I want to go home. And they sent me home!…And this is my house, and my room. And I’m never going to leave you ever, ever again. Oh, Auntie Em….there’s no place like home!”

This is scoffed at by some. Oh, home. Where is home? The definition varies. But the general idea that the movie expostulates is that happiness isn’t something that’s somewhere else. Dorothy had the power to go home–or, to be happy–the entire time she was in Oz. “Why didn’t you tell her before?” The scarecrow asks Glinda at the end of the movie. “She wouldn’t have believed me,” The Good Witch replies. “She needed to find it out for herself.”

When we’re unhappy, it can be easy to think that if we just:

  • had a new job
  • had a spouse
  • had a different spouse
  • had a better friend
  • a better house
  • a better car
  • a better neighborhood
  • a better church
  • a better body
  • a better salary
  • a better whatever

We would be HAPPY!!!!

Um, no. If your happiness depends on external factors, there’s a problem.

“Our hearts are restless until they rest in you,” St. Augustine famously wrote. And that’s true. Happiness can really only be found in God, in resting in Him. No amount of rainbow wishes or trips to Oz can make us really happy until we’ve rested in Him.

That’s not to say we won’t ever be unhappy. Of course we will be. No one goes through life completely happy all the time–not even Jesus did that. Darkness will come to everyone. There is a difference, however, between the Big Things of life messing with happiness, and the things that are comparatively small.  Is our happiness so tenuous that it depends on things being precisely as we like them, to exist? To have the right house, the right church, the right neighborhood, the right neighbors….? It shouldn’t be, especially if we’re Christians.

We cannot wish our lives away, thinking, like Dorothy, “if I was only somewhere else….everything would be better!”

Well, no, it won’t be, magically. Because you’ll still be there. And if you’re not content, happy, in yourself–then it doesn’t matter where you live or how much money you have or how gorgeous your local church is, or how excellent your season tickets to the local pro team’s games are. Lottery winners exemplify this. Saints do, too, except on the opposite end of the spectrum.

Perspetive is a wonderful thing–as is knowing where our true joy, our true happiness, resides.

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6 thoughts on “Happiness in your own backyard

  1. My dear,

    First things first… AMEN to ^^^ that.

    Secondly, I love your bloggy blog space. Spring cleaning is after us both, eh?

    And last, but definitely not least, St. Augustine. He gives an A+ shine to everything.

    That is all.

  2. Pingback: Seven Quick Takes No. 46 | Living Adventurously

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