Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.Aristotle
I’m a Disney annual passholder and I am fortunate to visit several times a year. I have friends who share my passion for the House of the Mouse, and I have friends who think I’m a bit, well, *obsessed*, and perhaps childish (Whaat?? Who doesn’t love wearing Mickey ears and wandering around the Magic Kingdom with a bag of cotton candy singing “Let It Go”?). Everyone has those places that resonate with them, and to me, Walt Disney World has a special place in my heart. One of my earliest memories is riding “It’s a Small World” as a toddler, and to this day, my mom tells how I insisted we ride it over, and over, and over again (I take this as an early manifestation of a positive trait, where I can repeat experiences some may find mind-numbing over and over ad naseum and still get pleasure from them, like routine lab tasks; or, I have a high tolerance to pain). As an engineer, I have enormous respect for the imagineers whose creativity and ingenuity have led to wondrous worlds where we can believe we are transported somewhere from the mundane. Having an entrepreneurial spirit, I have great admiration for the Disney business model and its seemingly seamless daily roll out to tens of thousands of visitors and dedication to the guest experience. There’s a reason they call it “Disney magic.” The parks become a living embodiment of age old tales that ring of familiarity, where we celebrate good over evil based on folk lore and stories that have survived centuries. Many times, it’s the underdog facing an insurmountable challenge, who through personal trials, triumphs in the end.
One of my favorite shows in the Magic Kingdom is what I call the Castle show. Every evening, there are snippets of popular Disney movies, from Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Mulan, Cinderella, to Frozen, that are projected onto the facade of Cinderella’s castle. Accompanied by fireworks and music from the movies, it is a spectacle of Disney caliber. One of my favorite segments is from Frozen. During the show, to the music of the popular “Let It Go,” there is a powerful moment when Elsa stamps her foot on the ground and cracks the ice below her as she sings “Here I stand, and here I stay.” I can just feel her say “Enough.” It’s time to draw a line in the sand (or snow) between the life she had been living to the life she was meant to be living. She breaks through the artificial walls that she has been hiding behind her entire life, and revels in the power she had been denying, finally accepting and being who she was born to be. Of course, for those of us familiar with the movie, there is more to the tale. How the years of denying her true self have warped Elsa’s view of the world and stunted her compassion for others, how true love opens her eyes, and redeems her. In typical Disney style, the heroines and heroes find a happy ending, and the villains are given their comeuppance.
We all seek the same truth, our own truth, and our paths to enlightenment differ. Our power comes in finding our true selves. Once we grasp that energy that lives inside us all, we are able to break through all the walls that surround us, be they of our own or others making. Once that happens, there is no stopping the cascade of events that occurs, and “magically” the roadblocks in our life will disappear or become easier to surmount. When we accept our truth, we find an anchor in our own wants, needs, and by extension, the world around us. When I visit Disney, this resonates with me. I see the tale of one’s path to knowing who you are, being willing to accept it, showing it to the world, owning your strengths and weaknesses to find love, joy, and happiness, told over and over again.
To me, there is still nothing like walking down Main Street USA and catching that first glimpse of Cinderella’s Castle. To those that call it fake, I question, is what we create artificial or an expression of our hearts and souls? I see Disney as an elaborate theater where we are reminded of the best and worst of our humanity. After all, Disney calls its employees “cast members,” right? I was reading a friend’s bio last night on his author’s website, and he wrote what a professor had told him about acting (the link to the my friend’s site is at the end of this entry as well as his personal blog; follow him). He wrote: “She said…”Acting is not about becoming somebody different but taking who you are and infusing the character with your personality.”” So perhaps, if all this world is truly a stage and we but actors in it, the best characters we play are the ones that reflect our essence. We must own our own story.
The day Disney gets old to me will be the day that I have died a bit inside. A visit to the “Happiest Place on Earth” reminds me that there’s a little magic in the world, and it resides in each of us. Like the genie Robin Williams once said, “You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” And once we find our light within, and nurture it, we can become catalysts to unveiling the light within others.