In the musical “Wicked,” the Wizard of Oz is made out to be the “bad guy.” According to the common interpretation, the Wizard fools the people into believing that he has powers that he does not have, and enriches himself through this position.
I guess I understand why people make the Wizard out to be the bad guy. Deception and manipulation are wrong after all.
But here’s the problem I see: I don’t think the Wizard of Oz (or Joseph Smith for that matter) originally set out to fool the people on such a grand scale.
I think that the people wanted a Wizard (or a treasure seeker, or a prophet) to make their lives feel less drab, meaningless, and vulnerable. They wanted hope. And so the people, in effect, created the Wizard by flattering and elevating him to his status.
Don’t believe me? Check out the lyrics from the song “Wonderful” from the Musial Wicked:
I never asked for this
Or planned it in advance
I was merely blown here
By the winds of chance
I never saw myself
As a Solomon or Socrates
I knew who I was
One of your dime a dozen
Then suddenly I’m here
Respected, worshipped, even
Just because the folks in Oz
Needed someone to believe in
Does it surprise you
I got hooked, and all too soon?
What can I say?
I got carried away
And not just by balloon
They called me
So I said
“Wonderful. If you insist”
In other words, to whatever extent Joseph Smith conned our ancestors, to some degree, they were eager to be conned.
This is one of the hardest parts about what I do these days. As someone who sees how harmful cults can be, and who deeply values truth and science and evidence and reality, it’s continually astounding to be reminded over and over again that so many people, even ex-religious people, WANT…almost NEED a “Wizard”….whether it be a belief in Foot Zoning, or Reiki, or crystals, or chakras, or energy work, or Satanic Ritual Abuse, or aliens, or the mis-use of essential oils, or some drug (psychedelic or otherwise), or the next MLM, or anti-vaxxing beliefs, or conspiracy theories, or political fanaticism, or some set of extreme beliefs about diet or exercise, etc.
Many of these things can be innocuous….or they can grow to become a huge waste of time and money….or in a “worst case scenario” they can cause serious damage. It just depends on the situation.
Regardless, what’s clear is that we constantly want to give our time, money, and extra special “powers” to people or things that they simply don’t and should not have it….in order to make our lives feel more meaningful, or hopeful.
I guess that meaning and hope are good things. And I’m not a fan of people feeling powerless. And I honestly don’t want to insult anyone here.
Still…..I guess I wish that less of us felt the need to believe in superstitious or supernatural or conspiratorial things…..in part because I think that these beliefs can waste our time and money, make us vulnerable to charlatans, cause us to be bigoted to vulnerable minority groups, or even just give us false hope…but mostly because the power that we often give these things is usually not based in reality.
But as messy as reality is, I want to live in it. Not in Oz. And I don’t want to follow any more Wizards.
More importantly, I want humans to find a way to get meaning, joy, and purpose from life’s incredible realities — and there are so many — and not from charlatans or superstition.
Do any of you resonate with what I write here?
Again, I certainly don’t mean to offend anyone.
I just want the best for our people. ❤️
What Wizard are you worshiping these days?
Three essential books for those interested:
Would love your feedback.