By Jean Houston
224 pages; Atria Books/Beyond Words
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IF I ONLY HAD A BRAIN
Dorothy travels along the Yellow Brick Road, infused with God stuff, filled with possibilities, magical ruby slippers on her feet and the ever-enthusiastic Toto at her side. She comes to a crossroad where she pauses, having no idea which way to go. In a nearby cornfield, a funny-looking Scarecrow (played in the film by the seemingly boneless Ray Bolger) hears Dorothy wondering aloud about her direction. The Scarecrow comes to life and promptly offers her options, first pointing down one road, saying, "That's a good way," and then pointing down the other road, saying that road works just as well. Finally, he crosses his arms across his chest and points in both directions at once. Clearly, on one level, he can't make up his mind. On another level, the Scarecrow exhibits the gift of second sight and the ability to exist cheerfully in the midst of opposition.
The fork in the road is traditionally a big moment in any mythic journey because it indicates the need to see both, if not all, paths available to a life and a society. In the Hero's Journey, this critical choice point represents the separation of the hero's known world and self. It is the point in which the hero transitions between worlds and selves to see the potential for a new world and a new self. The fork in the road can be frightening—for the hero doesn't know what lies ahead—but by choosing which way on the path she will go, Dorothy also enters the stage that shows an open willingness to undergo major life change and personal transformation.
Development of the other sides of our selves in ways that allow us to be aware of them and to hold them within us simultaneously helps us navigate through a society as complex as our own in these modern times. Think of a path not taken in your life. If you had taken that "other" path, where would you be now? What would you be doing? More important, who would you be? In the Road of Trials, all roads are the right ones, even the frustrating ones, because they lead to awareness and growth of the self. If you made what you now consider to be a "wrong" turn, think of the ways that you really could have messed up on the "right" one. All roads fork. And down the path they fork again and again. Chances are your soul will lead you to the same place ultimately, regardless of which path you take. Just think about that: the fork in the road, the road not taken. What did you choose?