“Emaweni webaba, silale maweni, webaba silale maweni” is a refrain intoned over and over again by Ladysmith Black Mambazo at the beginning of their collaboration with Paul Simon on their song Homeless.
A rough translation of this is: “Hey Mister! We sleep on the cliffs.”
Our lives, emotionally, physically, spiritually, are inherently perilous. But even so, we need to find a way to build abodes of safety and succour for ourselves, sanctuaries and refuges of peace so that we can also rest, sleep, whilst seeing through our perilous human lives.
All the characters in The Wizard of Oz are homeless. Dorothy is trying to get back to Kansas, but also to the vitality of her pre-weather-beaten caregivers. Her companions are metaphysically searching for home, trying to recapture or seize hold of an idealised self, or maybe just a more fully-realised self.
Peter Berger in the The Homeless Mind believes that in the age of technological and bureaucratic modernization we are all ‘ afflicted with a permanent identity crisis’. He wrote this 1974, but equally this description counts for Baum’s turn of the century America, and our 21st century technological alienation.
But like that first pilgrim who journeyed North to Zhaozhou, and like Dorothy, the pain and frustration of Mu doesn’t destroy us because we have a soulmate, in whom we can take care, and be cared for. This soulmate for many of us comes in the form of an animal, a little daemon, whose embodied soul always at our side, becomes over time a living breathing custodian for both our souls. As we care for our animals, we care for the well-being of ours souls. And in doing so, we find moments of repose and rest on the cliffs of life.
“It was Toto that made Dorothy laugh, and saved her from growing as grey as her other surroundings. Toto was not grey; he was a little black dog, with long silky hair and small black eyes that twinkled merrily on either side of his funny, wee nose. Toto played all day long, and Dorothy played with him, and loved him dearly.”