Book Review: The Zen of Oz

March 31, 2013

As a conscious being, the only thing you need to find happiness is to perceive clearly who you are. […] The very fact that the Scarecrow craves wisdom means that he already has smarts. What he really yearns for is higher consciousness, enlightenment, nirvana.

zenofozThe Zen of Oz: Ten Spiritual Lessons from Over the Rainbow by Joey Green applies a Zen reading to the movie version of The Wizard of Oz to explain why the movie has touched so many people so deeply. His argument is that the characters and situations perfectly align with Zen teachings, so he sets out to show how.

Green makes some excellent observations, and I don’t want to take away from what he does with this book, but as an academic, my reaction could basically be summed up as: What an effing racket. This dude took The Wizard of Oz and did a book-length close reading through a Zen lens and published it. THAT IS WHAT HE DID. And all I can think is: why didn’t I think of doing something like that? I mean, if I had, I would have my PhD by now.

So it was hard for me to separate my academic jealousy from the act of reading of the book.

That said, I did flag a lot of quotes on a lot of pages. Green is pretty thorough, connecting the major characters and plot points to philosophy. Very easy to follow, even for someone unfamiliar with Buddhism/Zen philosophy.

In conclusion: This book operates as an accessible look at Zen philosophy by using a familiar and popular movie as its basis. And I wish I had thought of doing something like it for my dissertation project. Dang it.

Source: I borrowed a friend’s copy

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