I’ve officially tossed my concept paper into the NaNoWriMo ring as of today. Which means, I need to step up to the challenge and start utilizing November as a chance to outline and work on my proposal. Yesterday, I was reading Phil Cousineau’s book The Art of Pilgrimage again (yes, I know, when am I going to FINISH that darn book. *sigh*) Point is that when I began to think more deeply about pilgrimage in general, and this pilgrimage in particular, on a personal level, I started to wonder if maybe, just maybe, a large part of my feelings of reticence about this process may be related to the way I’m going about reflecting on the Disneyland pilgrimage itself.
Without, as John Wayne once said, going the long way around the barn, let’s just say that it is virtually impossible to write a dissertation about Disneyland as a pilgrimage, claiming that the trek to Disneyland FUNCTIONS as a pilgrimage FOR DISNEY PATRONS, without actually delving into the realms of case studies, questionnaires, etc. That is totally not my bag. Yeah, I will NOT be writing case studies anytime now or in the future. However, as I was reading Phil’s book on the difference between the traveler and the pilgrim (intentionality and passion) it occured to me that I CAN write the dissertation from an insider’s point of view (which I planned to do all along anyway), claiming that the trek to Disneyland FUNCTIONS as a pilgrimage/ritual container for ME (and Bruce, of course, but clearly I can’t write from a vantage point inside HIS soul).
So, where does that leave the hard core scholarly part of the dissertation? Wellllll, I need to set up an argument that explores the aspects of ritual that the creaters 0f Disneyland have chosen as a vehicle for the place. Doing so will set up a foundation for Disneyland’s validity as a purveyor of myth and ritual in their traditional forms, yada, yada, yada, all the things you have heard me say (if you know me personally) a million times. What does it mean to me?
Following Joseph Campbell’s admonition to take the left path (i.e. my bliss), I will now take some time to reflect and figure out what works for me at Disneyland and why. Why does the trip fulfill my personal needs for ritual? I do have a sense of it, but I also have to admit that I haven’t given as much thought to why it works for me as I probably should have up to this point. Hence, the fact that I have to begrudingly admit that I’ve been following a path, and not blazing my own. Although a certain amount of path following is necessary for the process of writing an actual dissertation, which will actually get published and will actually be taken seriously, I’ve got to ask myself what I think too!
And, this is what I think (SPOILER ALERT: INCOMING NUTSHELL). I think it is ridiculous to claim that we live in a world without myth and or ritual, and I think we live in a society that has a certain amount of guilt about who and what we are. I also think that we live in a society that allows for very few moments of pure levity or frivolity. We are constantly worried about shooters in our schools, terrorists shooting missles out of submarines at sea, climate change, paying bills and watching our dollar tank, not to mention (in California) a slow, steady unraveling of our state govenment. Frankly, its demoralizing. In this climate, who wants to be a human being, let alone an American, let alone a Californian? How in the world can a person in this kind of environment experience any kind of relief from the terrors of life in the post-millenial age?
Answer? Myth! This is what myths/religions do! They help us make sense of things. They storytell our way out of the terror or uncertainty. Furthermore, this is what rituals do. They give our bodies things to do that allow us to enter the stories that help us find our way out of the terror of uncertainty.
Further answer: Disneyland. Campbell may have written with tongue-in- cheek when he said that if people can’t go into their imaginations they might as well go into Walt’s and he’ll help them. Well, darn right. This still works because, confound it, shmaltz is comforting. It is unthreatening, and that is what we need. At this point, we need this safety because otherwise we may just spin out into the oblivion of self destruction. Instead, we enter the archetypal realms of Mickey Mouse, the Pirates and the Princesses.