Enjoying Disneyland: Immersion Towards Interesting Illusion
What is it that makes Disneyland, and most of the other Walt Disney parks unique? What sets them apart from what so many of the “other guys” do? When I think of what Disney does better than just about anyone else, one word comes to mind: theming. So many of the rides, shows, and attractions have every aspect working together to create an overall theme, an overall story, even an overall feeling.
Kevin Yee, a writer for MiceAge.com has coined a term for this. He calls it “Immersion Toward Interesting Illusion.”
What has historically made Disney special is the ability to ‘transport’ visitors somewhere else; the illusion is complete enough that we are able to ‘suspend disbelief’ and get into the spirit of pretending that we are really there. How is the illusion created? Through total immersion. There are no distracters, and cost-cutting measures like painted bricks (rather than real bricks) are avoided in favor of something more authentic-looking.
But only experiences which grant immersion in service of an illusion come close. And I’d interject that the hoped-for illusion has to be an “interesting” one too. If you think about it, DCA’s Paradise Pier is a pretty well-themed immersion toward illusion. It’s just not a particularly interesting illusion. To qualify as “interesting,” it should be exotic, or different in some fundamental way from the everyday reality people experience.
In short, truly enduring attractions—and even parks—in the Disney vein seem to have succeeded because they meet several unique criteria: they offer complete immersion in a fictional setting, the entire atmosphere is not just reality, but an illusion, and finally, the illusion itself must be deemed an “interesting” one by the viewer, most likely because it is exotic or different from his usual experience in life.
Now, if Disney—at least most of the time—succeeds in producing experiences that are so completely immersing people in interesting illusions, why don’t some people like Disneyland?
For some, they don’t like crowds, or the prices are too high, or something like that.
Of course, many of these same people will deal with big crowds for a sporting event or a conference. Or they’ll deal with the high prices for concert tickets or lift tickets at a ski resort.
For most people who don’t like it, though, when you real get down to the heart of it, it’s because they don’t allow themselves to be fully immersed in the illusion. They carry too much baggage; they have too many worries; they try so hard to find the flaws and criticize that they don’t have time to experience the magic.
Ron Schneider, a columnist for Jim Hill Media wrote an article a few years ago about taking his daughter to Disneyland for the first time. In it, he says,
Once inside Fantasyland I take her straight to my childhood favorite, Peter Pan’s Flight. As we step up to the load area, Katie asks me, “Daddy, what happens in here?” What can I tell her? I don’t want her to be nervous, I don’t want to spoil anything. I decide to try this: “Honey, I have no idea.” And that’s what I do for the next two days. As a result, every attraction is a voyage of discovery that we make together. …
My wish for every father is to make this same ‘voyage of discovery’ with your child. The world has enough commonplace thrills in it; they can be found at the side of any freeway in America. There are far too few flights of fancy.
Ron decided, for the sake of his daughter, to approach Disneyland as a child himself, to completely immerse himself in the illusion, in the experience.
When it comes to the Christian life, we’ve talked on this blog about a lot of different aspects. Hope, faith, growing, adventure, and we’ll continue to do so. But for the moment, let’s stop for a self-check. How has your life been in terms of these characteristics?
I know that some of you are thinking, “Why haven’t I experienced that? Why do I struggle with believing? Why haven’t I seen answered prayer?”
At the risk of oversimplifying, I can tell you that what is missing much of the time is total immersion. I’m not talking about baptism. And I’m not talking about joining a monastery. I’m talking about complete, absorbing, all-encompassing commitment, in our regular daily life.
Or, as Paul said,
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
And as Jesus Himself said, “What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.”
What makes Disneyland work is Immersion Toward Interesting Illusion. What we’ve got is something infinitely better. We have Immersion in Life in Christ Jesus. Not interesting illusion, ultimate reality.
But we must be truly, completely committed to Jesus. To following Him in every part of every lives, every day. It’s not enough to just pay Him lip service. It’s not enough to just give Him a couple of hours once a week.
As one of my former professors at Hope International University, David Timms, says,
Christian ‘faith’ that consistently fails to touch our anger, lust, despair, jealousy, fear, bitterness, mean-spiritedness, violence, and unrestraint is unworthy of Christ and dishonoring of the Holy Spirit. Unless we grow steadily and measurably in love, we discredit the ‘new creation’ for which Christ died. …
All too often we affirm the foundational teaching of Jesus–’Love the Lord your God, and love your neighbor as yourself’—then permit all manner of disunity, gossip, division, conflict, and criticism to pour forth from us and around us. With disheartening regularity, we confuse transformation of the heart with modification of the lifestyle. We honor those who volunteer for service, regularly attend worship, and give generously, while failing to confront deep character flaws. A deacon in the church can be a dictator in the workplace with barely a raised eyebrow among us.
John 15:4 (AMP) – “Just as no branch can bear fruit of itself without abiding in (being vitally united to) the vine, neither can you bear fruit unless you abide in Me.”
What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a ‘law man’ so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that.
That’s living for Christ. It’s not about rules and regulations. It’s not about shoulds and should nots. Not teeth-gritting determination. Not extraordinary reserves of self-discipline. Not Type-A drivenness. Not the over-achiever over-achieving. But death. Simply dead to ourselves and alive to Christ. I’m not there yet, and I probably never will be, but it’s what I’m aiming for, a little more today than yesterday, and a little more tomorrow than today.
St. Augustine said, “Love God and do as you please.”
When we truly love God, our desires will come into line with His. But what about Jesus in Gethsemane? No one would argue that He didn’t love God, but He did say, “Take this cup from Me”.
So what held Jesus to the cross? Did God the Father force Him? No. It was His love. Because He was both fully God and fully man, He had conflicting desires. We all do. But in the end, He chose His highest desire, which was to do the Father’s will. Through all of Jesus life God the Father was at the center.
When we love God that passionately, that completely, our decisions will reflect that love. Our lives will be completely immersed in His love.
Living for Christ involves less straining and striving then we might imagine. It emerges from surrender and trust. The Kingdom of God is not advanced by the brilliant and the bold but by the broken—those whose own will, agenda, ambition, pride, and plans have been broken and are completely in the hands of God.
It’s still living life, pursuing our dreams, going to work, being with friends, maybe looking for that special someone, having fun. But doing all of it with God as the focus, pleasing Him, serving Him, honoring Him.