After a fun-filled weekend, I find myself in a state of sensory overload. Saturday was the highlight: quality time spent with my brother’s entire family and the Broadway musical Wicked. If I’ve said it once in the last 48 hours, I’ve said it a hundred times. It was awesome!
I’ve been hooked on the music for a few years now. I have the book, although I must confess that my first attempt at reading it didn’t last very long. It is not an easy read. While I knew the basic premise of the story, I knew I was missing a few little details. Still, I thought I had pretty much figured it out from the soundtrack. What I discovered Saturday was that I had been missing a lot of things. I’d been nowhere close to understanding the story. It was one of those, “Ohhhh – so that’s why she did that!That’s where those blasted shoes fit in! That’s why they call her wicked!” It makes so much more sense now.
Stories are like that, you know. You think you know how a story goes – a play, a book, a movie, your best friend’s life, the drama at work, church, or home. You make all kinds of judgments about the people involved – jumping to conclusions and taking sides. You repeat the story to others based on your own (limited) understanding. You argue with others who challenge your interpretation, sure that they are wrong and not you.
Finally, if – and this is a really big if – you take the time to dig deeper, to listen closer, to let go of preconceived notions and hearsay, to have an open mind and an open heart, you find that the story goes so much deeper. You find that what seemed so simple is really quite complex, and what you thought was so complex is really quite simple. You find that the bad guys aren’t necessarily so bad and that heroes are often flawed. You find that the neat little box that you’ve packed others, or yourself, or your beliefs into is far too small to hold the contents anymore. You begin to feel a little sheepish about how quickly and how harshly you’ve judged others. You discover that maybe it would be best to hold off on making judgments altogether.
It would be easier to stick with shallow stories. With shallow stories, you don’t have to invest much of yourself. You don’t have to work hard to understand. You don’t have to consider your implicit participation in things that are wrong. Not to mention that you can always carry your beliefs and your worldview around with you packed neatly in a small, light box. It is so much easier that way.
Art makes sure that we can’t get away with doing that. That’s the power of art, in whatever form it takes. At Wicked, the innovative sets, the soaring music, the vivid costumes, the quick humor, and the “familiar” story all combine to lull you into a place of unexpected vulnerability. You let your guard down. You’re having fun. Then BOOM! They sneak in a bigger story. When that happens – if you allow it to happen – you will leave a bigger person.
Will you dare to let it happen to you?