It's been said that truth is greater than fiction, but according to philosopher and author Jean Houston, the greatest truths of your own life can often be found in pages of your favorite stories. Her new book, The Wizard of Us, uses the classic film as an example of how the life lessons found in the greatest myths of our time can help you become the hero or heroine of your own life—a life full of purpose, heart and courage.
Q: So what is a myth?
Jean: Well, a myth is a great story. A myth is a kind of story that puts us on the road to adventure, shows us that we are larger than we ever thought we could be. Gives us experiences that enlarge our humanity. Experiences that often begin in a call. I feel called to something—"I'm in a state of yearning."
Just like little Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. She feels called to move beyond an outmoded situation in dreary old Kansas, somewhere over the rainbow. In fact, sometimes it takes a big thing to get you going, like a tornado. And she lands in Oz, where she meets the parts of herself that have been put down: her mind, her heart and her courage. And therein often myths are filled with these symbolic characters, as in The Wizard of Oz.
I wrote a book about this called The Wizard of Us. She meets the Scarecrow for the mind—who turns out to have a brilliant mind, though he thought he didn't have one. The Tin Man, who is stuck, and she helps him. She has tremendous compassion, and she helps him release and become able to move again. And he has incredible love and sympathy and gentleness. And then the Cowardly Lion, who turns out to be able to do extraordinary things.
It's like the world today. We are in teams. We are working together across the great divide of otherness. We really take on the larger venture, the larger experience of finding out what our deepest challenges are that hone our pluck and cunning, make us grow up into who and what we can be, and in our own way, save our world. That's what a myth does.
Q: Are there any telltale signs you're on the journey you're meant to be on?
Jean: Well, there are many different parts of it. You may feel called, and you don't know for what, but you know you have to get out of an outmoded situation. You may find curious allies showing up. Sometimes the book opens to the right page. Or, that telephone call, or that unexpected grace of a meeting. But mostly, it is a yearning that will not go away.