By John Chang
Made famous by the film “The Wizard of Oz”, it is a road on which Dorothy (who got lost and somehow ended up in the land of Oz) has to travel to lead her to the wizard in the Emerald City and hopefully the way home to Kansas. On the way she picks up a menagerie of companions and encounters obstacles and forks in the road. A road seemingly paved with bricks of a golden hue and yet cemented with the unknown.
It is a metaphor for the challenges that all of us come up against and the decisions that we have to make in the face of these hurdles. Everyone has his/her own road of yellow bricks that hopefully leads them to fulfilment, happiness and success provided they successfully navigate the many bends that inevitably crops up.
In the movie, Dorothy of course eventually makes it home to Kansas with a mere click of her ruby red shoes (it is a movie after all) but the same cannot be said for all of us. Our road of yellow bricks may be paved with good intentions and what we think are sound decisions but in fact we travel quite blindly without the requisite maturity and vision. Thus we bungle our way around, crashing into obstacles guided mostly by chance, circumstance and advice (often the wrong ones but by virtue of age we usually take it without the required pinch of salt). A mixture of boundless can-do attitude and naivety we often make foolish choices perhaps urged on by voices that we may not have the temerity to stand up to.
“But we are only human”, one might say. After all isn’t it our divine right to err as the saying goes? Should we castigate ourselves for every mistake that we make as we journey down that road? Do we have to second guess ourselves at every step of the way? What’s done is done, it’s usually said, we learn from our mistakes and move on – most probably to the next error!
Once upon a time in Utah, a similar young person began the same journey. All of 16 he had the voice of ages – a vocal gift that was far more mature than the best bottle of wine – and just as sweetly he weaved his way into our hearts and minds. As with all journeys his began with the usual promise and optimism of a wide-eyed youth. No bridge seemed too far to span, no stones weighed too heavy to overturn and thoughts of disappointments were too improbable to entertain. Reaching his Emerald city seemed inevitable what with an adoring fan base, highly likable character, good looks and that magical voice.
And for awhile all seemed to go with the script. A highly popular debut single to lead off a very well received debut album (which sold nearly a million copies an achievement that even some past American Idol winners couldn’t match), followed by sold out tours, a book and a Christmas release. That gleaming city in the distance was beckoning and seemed close enough to touch.
But as with all things in life bumps and grinds get in the way to throw us off track. All of a sudden road blocks spring up, that sharp curve becomes too difficult to go around and that city looks to be receding further into the far horizons. Constrained by our natural inexperience we therefore turn to older supposedly wiser counsel to show us the way. Alas such voices have its limitation for they too are influenced by their own prejudices, principles and self interests. Thus our young traveller could conceivably be pulled in different directions and given the wrong road map to take. Such a map should have been present in the first place but I guess it’s easier to make it up as we go along rather than peer into the future to see what it could possibly have in store for us.
So now our young traveller finds himself at a crossroad and chooses a path that takes him on a detour for a certain period of time. What will he find on that path? What experiences will he have? Was it a good decision? And will this path eventually lead him to the Emerald city?
Unfortunately he doesn’t have the ruby red shoes to rely on. Bench seem to be a very poor substitute and I suspect not nearly enough of the magic to make him realise his ultimate destination. We hold our collective breath that the sum total of choices he has made so far will eventually bring him to his destiny and not up the proverbial garden path!