More (or less) than you bargained for...

As a rite of passage, a virtual pilgrimage, a baptismal plunging into a reality of make believe, the Disney World illusion of reality is carefully packaged by Disney “imagineers” to redefine good, clean fun with Orwellian machination. The financial success of Disney World’s burgeoning commercial ventures confirms that the Cloroxed world of Disney is preferable to the dirty, real world full of woes, cracks in the sidewalks, and choices among evil. The Magic Kingdom conjures a counterfeit Kingdom of God, but with a gleeful and sinister capitalistic twist.

The Disney World vacation becomes a quest for order, goodness, and happiness, all of which elude us in the actual world. Adults consume Disney World in a naive delusion of amusement, of chaos becalmed, and of choreographed goodness. The children, of course, know better. They repeatedly ask their parents, “Is that real?” looking for assurance.

Nothing is real, in fact, at Disney World except the reality of the transformation of self through myth and fantasy... a literal transformation which is less about self-awareness than a sense of belonging. What a visitor sees and does at the theme parks is only a fairy-dusted shadow of life on the outside; a simulacrum; a faint unreal likeness of how man has defined himself through modernism. Experience, brought into question in Disney’s risk-free world, becomes an idea.

The trip to Disney World burlesques a spiritual journey in another way. Getting there, going through the theme parks, and coming home again, parallels the proverbial trip to the mountain. But navigating Mt. Disney requires not a traditional map of the land, but one of the intellect. This is a post-modern mountain. The Ascent involves neither getting hurt nor lost nor dirty. But what has happened is of less consequence than how it is remembered. Forget the heat, lines, anger, and expense. The sojourner’s real meaning resides in the mind like fragmentary ruminations adrift in a fish bowl. One has arrived and one belongs. Once the credit cards are paid off, the snapshots and videos will be remembered with dear affection.

Most of all, the Disney World phenomenon is prophetic and symbolic of a seamless and totally controlled shift in our social values through media manipulation and “imagineering.” Prescribed cultural mores appeal to our quixotic selves as we yearn for meaningful lives.

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