Originally published at www.James-Strocel.com. Please leave any comments there.
Passion. It’s become a cliché now. Find your passion and you will succeed. Follow your passion to greatness. Your Passion is all you need! Passion, passion, passion! Is passion really all we need to get through life? I think courage is much more important. This is why I want to tell the story about a man of great passion. He was literally a beast, bursting with passion. Of course, I’m talking about the Cowardly Lion from the Wizard of Oz.
When the Cowardly Lion was just a cub in the Land of Oz, he had already found his passion. He walked up to his parents and said to them, “Mother, Father, I want to be the King of the Forest. I want to be big and strong. I want to make a difference out there.”
“Son,” said his parents, beaming with pride. “You could not have picked a better path for your life. You belong to a long line of Kings of the Forest. It’s an honourable profession. The salary’s good, the medical benefits are top notch, and you’re assured a pension! They even have a union, you know? You will be set for life, my boy!”
So, the Cowardly Lion headed off to jungle university to get his degree. He took a wide range of interesting courses “The Lame and the Sick: Culling for the future”, and “Poachers: How to send messages and keep the forest clean with their entrails”. The Cowardly Lion worked long and hard at his courses. He couldn’t even be bothered with the local political goings on. Something about the Munchkins having a real Witch of a Mayor. The Lion didn’t care. It wasn’t his problem. Someone needed to keep those little buggers in line.
Soon it was graduation day, and the Lion, degree in snout, marched proudly down to the forest to collect his union card for King of the Forest, local no. 342. He was ready to be top predator, a mean, lean, killing machine. He entered a grove of trees filled with a group of sombre older beasts who took the young graduate aside.
“Mr. Lion, sit down a sec. I have some news.” A Grizzlier than usual Bear said. “You see, we’re having a little trouble with the management back at the Emerald City. They say they can’t make their pension payments, but we got some guys here who put 30 years into this forest. If we don’t fight them on this, there’s no hope for you young guys coming up. Unfortunately, we’ve had to make a few…concessions. I don’t think we’ll have a position for you this year as King of the Forest. Perhaps later, after a few more years of experience, you’ll get your chance.”
The Cowardly Lion was heartbroken. He was so poor, he could even afford an apartment in the forest. He had grown weak and scrawny from a diet of all instant ramen. His student loans made him terrified of the phone. Because of the Union by-laws, he wasn’t allowed to chase so much as a field mouse. Experience? Where was he going to get that? He went out for a walk by the Yellow-brick road to gather his thoughts, when all of a sudden, he saw a strange sight.
There was a little girl walking down the road. On one side of her, there was a man made of metal, and on the other there was one made of straw. And right by the little girl’s feet there was a small black animal that he had never seen before. It wasn’t a deer, a zebra, or like any kind of animal covered by the Union by-laws.
He thought, “Well what do you know? A loop-hole! Here’s my chance to do my job as King of the Forest! I’ll muss up that little ball of fur good, and they’ll accept me for sure!”
Giving his best roar, the Lion jumped out on to the road. The straw man was no match for him, and the Tin one made a terrible noise as he quaked in his boots. He was about to pounce on the little animal, but the little girl stood in the Lion’s path and gave him a big fat slap!
The Lion just realized what he had tried to do. He had just picked on an animal weaker than himself. This isn’t what he trained for. This isn’t what a King of the Forest was supposed to do. This was the doing of big fat coward. It was all too much. The Lion began to cry.
The little girl (whose name was Dorothy) took pity on the Lion and said. “Don’t cry Mr. Lion. You just need to find some courage. We’re all looking for something, you see. The scarecrow’s trying to find some brains, and the Tin man is looking for a heart. We’re going to see the Wizard in the Emerald City to see if he could help. You should come with us!”
The Lion had lived in Oz for years and had never actually been to the Emerald City. He took Dorothy up on her offer. On the way there, he found ways to help his new friends. When he roared, the other beasts wouldn’t bother their little troupe. Whenever there were chasms in the Yellow Brick Road, he could carry his friends on his back and jump across the other side. When they got to the Emerald City, the Wizard told them that to prove themselves worthy, they had to bring back the broomstick of the Wicked Witch of the West. The Lion always wanted to be the King of the Forest, but he had no idea he would get so involved in politics!
The Lion found himself crossing a haunted forest, sneaking into a heavily guarded castle, and even fighting an army of flying monkeys! At the end of it all, the Wicked Witch was dead, Dorothy made it back to Kansas, and the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion were made Kings in Oz.
So you see, Passion isn’t everything. Passion can give us direction, and it can give us Joy, but what if we can’t follow our Passion? What if we have obstacles in our way? That’s when we need courage. Courage stays with us through those obstacles. Courage makes us soldier on when things get tough. We’ve still got a lot of Wicked Witches out there. There’s Climate Change, Terrorism, and a Global Debt Crisis, just to name a few. We’ll need courage to tackle them all. But you may be thinking, The Lion didn’t have any Courage! He had to go to the Wizard to find it! That’s true, he did. But on his way, he found friends to walk that Yellow Brick road with him. He found himself solving real problems that he would never have had to deal with as a simple King of the Forest. All he had to do was take that first step. You see, there’s a reason I think Courage is more important than passion. Unlike Passion, you don’t need to find Courage. If you just decide to look for it, Courage will find you.