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This Is Real

The theme park that never rusts, never ages, highlights an unattainable goal of flawlessness

We were on the last ride at the end of a long day in Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

The heat had finally broken, and the elevated ride granted us a nice breeze and gorgeous view.

The park lay sprawled beneath us in all its glory — the vibrant colors, perfectly designed exhibits, the tip of the safari in the distance. And while marveling at the peace and perfection, something magical happened: A gigantic rainbow suddenly appeared in the sky.

I stared, blinked, squinted. It must be real. Or not? Certainly Disney possesses the technology needed to project an image of a rainbow; it’s a stunt right? A Disneyesque goodbye? But goodness, it looks real…

Real?

Fake?

Eleven hours enveloped in the Happiest Place on Earth, and I’d lost my grip on reality. I got off the ride stunned by my own uncertainty. Leaning against a tree, I rubbed a leaf between my fingers, recoiled when I discovered it was made of green plastic.

“Let’s go.” I whispered to my husband.

I felt a sudden craving for something real; the dark, unpruned corners of the world where the weeds are rampant and the earth is pliable and life in its all its chaotic glory overflows in every direction.

 

I only remembered the incident when a friend called me recently describing how a popular vlogger has a perfect life.

“But you don’t even know her,” I said.

“Yes I do. I watch her stories every day. Perfect house, perfect kids, perfect husband.”

I’m sure she has challenges — no one’s life is truly perfect — but the imagery skews the logic. Once you sink into an immersive flawless experience, the truth becomes so murky it’s nearly impossible to find reality. And despite the fact that no one has ever told me that immersion in such “crafted” perfection brings them true joy, we go right back to it.

We shrink, flatten, and shine until we’re nothing more than marble countertops laid out one after another. We melt and mold our realities into 15-second stories we can be proud of — then bury the trimmings, denying the fundamental truth that within our brokenness lies our real beauty. It is our foibles, our thundering mistakes and fragile triumphs, our tears and pain that make up life itself. But that truth is buried under a pyramid of perfect looking photos.

The theme park that never rusts, never ages, highlights an unattainable goal of flawlessness. The forest in all its shedding and changing, shrinking and growing, death and rebirth, mirrors and bolsters the human spirit. My soul wants the forest, yet I keep choosing the theme park.

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 662)

 

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