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The Danger of Success

By October 7, 2009One Comment

American Adventure Right now I’m at Disney World with my husband which is why I haven’t posted in awhile. This is his first time visiting, so we’ve been going at a crazy pace to make sure he experiences it all. In fact, we’ve made it a personal goal to ride Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion every single day of the trip. And by “we” I mean “I.” Between that and the early morning character breakfasts and the fact that I was the only adult standing in line to get my picture taken with Mary Poppins, you should probably pray for Ike–I think he’s starting to feel like Ben Stiller in the “Heartbreak Kid” when he discovers that he’s married a crazy woman.

All of that to say, he’s passed out right now so I thought I’d write a quick post with the free moment.

We’ve really had a blast on this trip. I LOVE Disney World more than almost any other place. On the plane down here, Ike accused me of being more excited about Disney World than our wedding day. Maybe. But I think Ike has enjoyed it too. While there is an overwhelming number of children here, they’re also fun to watch. One day I saw a kid put his entire mouth around the round top of a hand rail that hundreds of people had touched that day. I don’t know what his parents were doing at the time, but if anyone gets the swine flu it’ll be him. We were also in line behind a boy and his dad just about to get on Splash Mountain when out of nowhere the kid said he had to go to the bathroom REAL BAD. It was pretty clear he was just scared and didn’t want to go on the ride, but I admired his strategy. And in case you were wondering, his dad made him ride anyway.

But enough about my trip. The reason I’m writing today is because of something I heard at an attraction in Epcot. It’s called the American Adventure (pictured above) and it’s an animatronic show about the country’s history and vision. I can’t necessarily recommend it because I fell asleep though most of it, but I woke up at the very end to hear animatronic Mark Twain read the following quote from John Steinbeck:

“Now we face the danger which in the past has been the most destructive to the human: success–plenty, comfort, and ever-increasing leisure. No dynamic people has ever survived these dangers. If the anaesthetic of satisfaction were added to our hazards, we would not have a chance of survival–as Americans.”

Pretty deep for a Disney show, huh? Honestly, I think that Steinbeck’s words are borderline prophetic, not only for America but for the human condition. Our present economic crisis is just an example of how self-destructive we can become when we are comfortable in our extravagance.

Now I don’t think Steinbeck was suggesting that we sell our possessions and live a life of poverty. or that a broken community and country is to be preferred. But Steinbeck wrote a lot about the triumph of the human spirit in the midst of suffering and adversity–namely, the Great Depression–and he probably noticed a difference between the perseverance and fraternal spirit displayed during that era, contrasted with the hedonism and exorbitance of wealthy eras such as the height of the Roman Empire.

Ever since hearing Steinbeck’s words I’ve been reflecting on them a lot, so I offer this quote to you today for two reasons: First, consider the ways in which you have been successful thus far in your life. Perhaps you have a successful career, or maybe you’ve gotten married and had a family. However you define success in your life, consider it, and then consider how that success has harmed you. Are you more prideful? Are you more judgmental of those who are not at the same place in life? Or have you come to depend more on that success than on God?

Second, this quote is a great reminder that we need not fear suffering. As Steinbeck chronicled, the Great Depression is one of the most beautiful periods in our nation’s history in the sense that it brought out the best in us. There are countless stories of Americans helping one another in astoundingly sacrificial ways. When I hear them I feel as though we are a completely different people now. The Great Depression refined us as a nation, and suffering has that potential in every person’s life. We shouldn’t seek suffering, but we shouldn’t be terrified of it either. While it is not the suffering itself that changes us—many people have endured hardship only to be the same person they were before, if not worse–but it is an instrument that God can use as a bullhorn into our hearts. That is an encouraging reminder to me in an economic time like this.

Well that’s all for now. Ike and I are here one more day and then it’s back to the real world, so I’ll be writing again soon. Til then, we’ll be on Pirates of the Caribbean!

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