Vacation season is now upon us in the Northern Hemisphere. Many folks are making trips to national parks, mountains, lakes, oceans, and amusement parks. Sometimes we seem to live as though we can hardly wait for the next vacation.
Yesterday, John mentioned his visits to Disneyland in the 1970s. He really enjoyed the first two visits, but after that, something changed inside him. He said he “realized it wasn’t real” – and the place lost its charm for him.
When I was little, I loved amusement parks. Small, temporary ones, or big, permanent ones – it didn’t matter. Once I became a teen, my mother told me that my father used to drive way out-of-the-way to avoid going past temporary roadside amusement parks that cropped up during summer months. If I saw the rides and colorful lights, I would cry and beg to stop at the park.
I grew up in Michigan. Every summer, we drove to Ohio to visit Cedar Point or King’s Island – or both. My favorite ride was nestled at the heart of King’s Island. It wouldn’t be classified as anything wild, fast or super exciting. It was called “Enchanted Voyage.” It involved getting in a little boat with about ten other people (I used to count the people standing in line in front of us to see if we would make the current boat or have to wait for the next one!) and riding into a huge building (well, it seemed huge to me) that held a mesmerizing fantasy world of sights and sounds. The general atmosphere was dark, cool (so nice in the summer heat!) and humid – but the beautiful scenes on the “land” alongside the river took me completely out of myself and out of the world. Funny enough, I don’t remember any of the scenes now (even though I took that boat ride dozens of times over the years), but I remember the happiness and joy of being transported out of this world.
“Being transported” is the point of all amusements. We crave them because they give us a break from the demands of everyday reality.
However, like John, I can no longer enjoy amusement parks because I know them to be distractions from reality. It’s hard to explain. It’s like, now that I see the other side of them, I can’t justify spending time and money on them. I’m not saying I’m so spiritually advanced that I no longer need distractions from reality now and then. However, I don’t WANT to need them, which is probably different from the average person who never thinks of such things. When I see through amusements, I lose interest in them.
I feel the same way about most movies and novels. Just give me good nonfiction (especially spiritual) books and I’m happy. Reading and writing are amusements in a way. Yet I also sense they are closer to reality than to unreality. They inspire me to be a better person.
Two years ago, I went sight-seeing to a casino with a friend in Connecticut. The place earns money for local Native Americans. That’s a good thing, I guess. However, I was struck by the themes and decor of the casino. It was dedicated to the elements of nature: earth, sky, fire, water. There were even two stunning 40-50 foot high waterfalls. Everything indoors, without windows. It was shocking to see nature brought indoors, to see people spending loads of money on gambling, drinks and food. For me, God and Mother Nature provide more attraction and amusement than anything in a casino.
John and I enjoy walking around Norfolk Botanical Garden. We hope to do more hiking this summer. Being out in nature, appreciating natural beauty, feels real and satisfying to us.
What types of amusements do you enjoy and why? Please share.