What the Magic Kingdom Reminds Us About the Eternal Kingdom

The happiest place isn't on earth…yet.


Not long ago, my wife, Jane, and I ticked off one of the items on our bucket list. We went to Walt Disney World. We had made the pilgrimage to the Magic Kingdom once before, when our children were younger, before our hair turned gray. We went this year to see what it would be like with just the two of us. The answer is that it was fun, in that grueling, Disney sort of way.

If you’ve ever been to Disney, you know that it’s the kind of vacation that requires an extended rest once it is over. It takes planning to get there and work once you are there. We walked miles every day and spent hours standing in line. As I watched fellow pilgrims hurry by, the brief snatches of conversation I caught in passing only confirmed what I already knew to be true. When Walt Disney opened his first theme park, Disneyland, in Southern California, he dedicated it by saying that his objective was to create a “happy place” that would “be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.” The theme park soon adopted the slogan, “The Happiest Place on Earth” and it has been the guiding principle for Disney’s parks ever since. Despite their slogan, a Disney theme park is not the happiest place on earth. There is plenty of happy to be sure. But there is always at least one child crying. Usually several. Everywhere you turn your eye, there are exhausted people. Couples are arguing with one another. In fact, if I had to identify a primary emotion for a Disney park it would be anxiety, not happiness.

We are anxious at Disney World because we are in transit. We are always on our way to somewhere else. Either we are making our way through a crowd to our next ride, anxious that someone else is going to …

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