Thursday, April 26, 2007

Life and Disneyland

Some reflections on my trip to the Magic Kingdom...

So, what is it about Disneyland? The Magic Kingdom? The Happiest Place on Earth? Source of controversy?

What is it about Disney in general... everything Disney?

I really loved Disneyland as a kid. Then as a young adult, I ran across an article or something somewhere that said "Life is no Disneyland!" And I thought that was rather poignant. As a young adult, you get into this frame of mind that "life isn't fair" and "life certainly isn't all fun and games" so the concept that "life is no Disneyland" makes a great deal of sense to you.

But as I grew older and my conception of the world reformed, I began to take on a new point of view about things. Namely: life is as fun as you want it to be... life is as fair as you want it to be... joy is as readily available as you want it to be.

I began to realize that happiness is something you make inside yourself by being content with the life you find yourself in.

Basically two people can live in exactly the same circumstances, and one of them become bitter, angry, grouchy, unkind, ungenerous, and so on, while the other becomes kind, forgiving, pleasant to be around, and so on. Of course, I find myself often falling victim to the former conception, when I want to mostly dwell in the latter.

Generally, there is a fine line between caring too much about things, and caring too little about things. You have to find the right balance between the two, so you don't become complacent, while at the same time you don't care so much about every little thing that you become bitter, angry, grouchy, etc.

What I think really works is: BEING a CHILD! I really think Jesus was onto something when he said "except you become as little children..."

So, anyway, I'm enjoying my second childhood, and it started a few years back. But I'm not going to let anyone stop me...

Anyway, that takes us back to Disneyland.

You walk into this place that Walt Disney envisioned as a place where everyone is happy. You are excited and ready to have a great time. Maybe you rush around a bit too much from one ride to another... maybe you feel a little bit uncomfortable waiting in long lines, in the hot sun. But you never really get grouchy. Why? Because you are just a big kid now. This is Disneyland, after all, how can you be grouchy? (Unless you are one of Snow White's dwarfs...)

Okay, so you tell me there's a difficult world right outside, where there are problems and complications and hardships and struggles. Okay, so there are even some folks out there who cannot afford to go to Disneyland.

Well, a "safe haven from the troubles of the world" has it's cost, doesn't it? It has its cost whether you are thinking of it spiritually or physically. Everything has its cost.

You could look at Disneyland from the perspective of how unfair it is to enjoy this little island of utopia while the rest of the world outside is suffering. Of course, you could look at heaven the same way.

But the fact is: utopia is a place in your mind.

(The Kingdom of God is within you...)

As Orthodox Christians we believe in bringing heaven to earth. It is one of the fundamental concepts of our faith. This is why John Lennon's song "Imagine" (there's no heaven... it's easy if you try...) has no meaning to us. It is neither an accusation against what we believe in, nor an affirmation of it. We can't imagine there's no heaven, because we already live in it. At no time of the year is that more obvious to us than Pascha! At least, I think, if you are an Orthodox Christian, you should be living in heaven - right here and now.

So, what does this have to do with Disneyland?

I think Walt Disney had the right idea: make a place where everyone can leave all their cares behind. Make it a place where everyone believes in happiness. Where everyone is a kid. Where people can actually believe in magic.

Never mind how expensive it is... never mind the waiting in lines and the heat. I became a believer when I saw a little girl lose her balloon while waiting for the Main Street Parade, and then watched as one of the Disney workers walked from position performing crowd control, half a block up to the balloon stand, and then back to the little girl to give her a new one.

Sure Disney comes with a cost.

But you never lose your balloon.