Disney World, Outer Space, and the Fate of Humanity

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Epcot is my favorite Disney theme park. I know that Epcot is usually everyone’s least favorite Disney park, and that makes me sad beyond words. I remember the sense of wonder I had at riding the boat through the “Living with the Land” ride. Getting to observe what were were able to accomplish with hydroponics, and how it was going to change the way the world produced its food. Walking through the “Innoventions” to see all of the cool things that was going to make our world a better place. Seeing a pavilion where the entire place was devoted to what we could accomplish with our imagination. More and more, Epcot is becoming less about wonder and innovation and more about rides and amusement.

A little history lesson: Epcot was never supposed to be a theme park. In fact, Walt Disney never intended for “Disney World” to be a series of theme parks at all. It was all supposed to be EPCOT – The “Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow”. It was an experiment to see if human ingenuity and American free-enterprise could build a multi-level, radial, intelligently designed super city that gave its inhabitants everything from free transportation to employment and shopping, all moments from their home and with a minimum of pollution and effort. If you’ve ever been to “Tomorrowland” at the magic Kingdom and taken a ride on the “People Mover”… that blue cart thing that gives you a tour of Tomorrowland… then you’ve also taken a ride on Walt Disney’s transportation prototype for his EPCOT city. The video of Walt himself explaining his grand plan to better humanity is right here.

So what happened?

As a kid I loved Epcot, and I remember when I was little, asking my Dad to come tell me stories before bedtime. I remember lying in my bed and my Dad coming in with the little toy model of the Space Shuttle, because the stories we talked about weren’t fairy tales. We talked about solid rocket boosters and liquid fuel engines. We talked about outer space and about how, just a few short decades before I was born, no one had ever been there.We talked about the Space Shuttle program and how it would carry parts into space for… what? We could build a ship in space and use it to explore the vast unknown. We could build a huge space station that people could live on. Who knows!

Implied in all these bedtime conversations was the certainty that humankind’s best days were ahead of us. That in my lifetime, I would see incredible things. The sense of wonder was what I always remembered about those bedtimes.

So what happened?

Be the change that you wish to see in the world.Mahatma Gandhi

The word “muse” means “to think”. Add an “A” before any word and it changes the worlds meaning to the opposite of that word. A-muse-ment parks are where people go to NOT think, and just to be entertained, right? What I always thought was so cool about Epcot is that it was a place where you could learn about other cultures, other places, new things, and things to come. Learning was made fun, exactly like it was always supposed to be.

So maybe there are two types of people in the world. Those who love to learn, and those who would rather be entertained. Those who enjoy solving problems, and those who would rather pay someone else to do their thinking for them. Sadly, the second group seems to be getting larger and larger. I mean, literally, AMAZING things are being accomplished by the thinkers and problem solvers in our species. We have devised a way to transport a probe the size of an SUV 140,000,000 miles away to another PLANET, and gently land it on the surface where it can wander around, taking soil samples and doing experiments. The video of this landing is incredible. But Kim Kardashian got more press coverage.

In less than a month, humankind will finish exploring our home solar system. Whether or not Pluto is a planet or not is up for debate, but the fact remains that we are about to explore the farthest reaches of the Sol system. Think about that for a second. No one has ever seen Pluto before. Through human ingenuity, on July 14th, we are going to get to see what the outermost reaches of our solar system look like. It’s absolutely incredible.

Throw in the fact that space is trillions of times larger than our own solar system, and it begs the question… why are we watching that train wreck that is Kim Kardashian’s life instead of becoming the brave and intelligent explorers we were always meant to be? Why is a large majority of our species fascinated by the royal wedding and Honey Boo Boo, but when they visit Epcot they look around and go “Meh”? And more important than that, it seems like our country was not always this way. What happened?

The future is something that we often talk about with fear. Peak oil. ISIS. Terrorism. If we approach it with dread, it will probably become dreadful. And if we approach it with hope and patience and kindness, then that’s what we will get.

The future is ours to shape. But first, we have to decide what type of person we want to be.

emusteveDisney World, Outer Space, and the Fate of Humanity