As I think and write tonight I am sitting on the 10th floor of Bay Lake Tower of the Contemporary Resort at Walt Disney World. Out the window I can see “Cinderella’s Castle” all lit up with icicle lights for Christmas. The fireworks show just ended.
I almost always read a book to prepare for a trip: When I traveled to England, I read Emerson’s account of his travels there. When I traveled to Israel, I read Twain’s account of his travels there. On this trip to Florida, I read Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka. Written in 1912 Germany, this is a classic piece of 20th century literature. The first sentence says it all, and yet reveals very little:
One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious dreams, he discovered that in his bed he had been changed into a monstrous verminous bug.
What an appropriate book for Disney World! I mean, bippity boppity boo, right? And Mickey is, after all, a monstrous verminous rodent. I know, I hear you saying “that sounds so dark, and Disney is so bright.” Bah.
Though Kafka is not generally thought of as a bright, cheery writer, and the World of Disney is not widely accepted as a depressing, foreboding environment, I submit the opposite of each and therefore the similarity between the two. Hang on for a bumpy ride:
In Metamorphosis, Gregor Samsa is a young man who lives with his mother, father and sister. Initially – as in before the story starts – he is the breadwinner for this lower middle class German family, and he takes some pride in his winning of the bread. Father is old, overweight and mostly unable to work, Mother has little marketable skill, and sister, though intelligent and talented with a violin, again isn’t able to pay the bills. So you would think that the breadwinner turning into a “verminous bug” would be devastating for the family. Dark, right? But by the end of the book, this very misfortune is what turns the family around and leads them into better times, more prosperity, happiness and contentment. Happy, yes?
Disney is a world of princes and princesses and magic: Little girls dressed up as princesses, candy and ice cream, singing and dancing, and dreams coming true with some sparkle out of the end of Tinkerbell’s wand. Happy, right?
Or is it a world of villains, debauchery and sorcery? The Pirates of the Caribbean ride is all about thievery, objectifying women, drunkenness – you know – pirate stuff. There were “rum bottles” floating in the water. We have to accept that a noble hero simply cannot show his strength without a villain of at least mediocre power to accentuate it. It’s all about the yin and the yang. Whether the conservative Christian world approves or not, Walt Disney World seems to invite and embrace this. I can’t think of a type of people that I did not see represented here, except for the non-moneyed. Most skin tones, most nationalities, LBGTQH (lesbian, bi, gay, trans, queer, hetero), liberals, conservatives, MAGAS, socialists, et cetera. And the real Disney Magic is: nobody gives a crap about the other people’s personal views because they are so self-absorbed that they are mostly polite so as not to ruin their own experience because they paid so much for it. I digress, or do I?
At WDW everyone seems comfortable in their own skin, however tattooed, dark, pale or exposed it may be. And this brings us back to Kafka. Gregor was waking up from anxious dreams and found himself to be a verminous bug. I wonder why he was so anxious? Had he long desired to be someone, or something else? Without the pressure of his human role, maybe? Did he feel that he didn’t fit in or wasn’t understood to the point that those anxieties manifested in this way?
We all have inclinations and predispositions, some of which we suppress and some of which we entertain and even indulge. Sometimes we give ourselves over to them. They can be good, bad, saintly or sinful. To some they will be disgusting; to others irresistible. Gregor’s was disgusting, even to himself at first, but the more he was what he couldn’t avoid, the more comfortable he was in his own body. Within weeks he went from not knowing how to move his multiple, skinny, disproportionately sized, bug legs to being able to scamper across the ceiling with them. Are those who have an unexplainable, unavoidable desire to be a different gender any worse than those who use lies to escape difficult situations? Both actively choose “sin,” right? Both make it a lifestyle, correct? But lying is SO much more acceptable, as is greed, lust, etc.
Walt Disney World is not a place where everything is OK, its just a place where nobody wastes their time complaining about the “bigot” in front of them or the “freak” behind them on Space Mountain or Peter Pan’s Flight. Everyone has better things to do. Live and let play.
So really, is it a choice, or were they “born that way?” I can’t say I know, truly. I suspect that it falls into the irresistible urge or inclination category. Can’t really say exactly when it began, but I have always liked Oreos. It wasn’t a problem early on; but as I got older and had the freedom to act on it when I wanted, I started gaining weight. I finally realized a had a problem. Gluttony? Must we use THAT word? Love is Love, right? All that sugar when your body isn’t made for it is bad. It screws up bodily functions, size and shape, and that starts affecting even your relationships. Too much sugar keeps my medications from working correctly and that leads to more problems. I suppose I choose it, but sometimes I can’t seem to resist that inclination. It is almost as if IT chose ME. Sin? Yes. Against God’s will? I’m sure of it. Against the 10 Commandments? Actually no. Does that mean it is ok? Not so much.
I want to be a Grete. I want to help people through their struggles and let them work the sin of it out with the Creator. I believe Grete saw the verminous bug next door as her brother, until he became too bold with himself, parading himself around more than his loved ones could tolerate when he was quite aware of how it made THEM feel. We simply must choose to care about one another. Both ways.
Life is difficult for both sides of the equation, and neither side should discount the other’s struggle. I really wish all this was as simple as “I was born this way,” or “He chose a sinful lifestyle so He should be shunned.” But I am convinced that this is no easier for the LGBTQ community than eating less or buying less or giving up income for anyone else.
I choose to be the compassionate one. I’m pretty sure Christ did the same.