Tomorrowland is the saddest of lands. Its original purpose was to showcase how amazing the future was about to be. Adventure, Fantasy, and the Frontier were easy to present. Tomorrow is slippery. Tomorrowland was neglected by the Disneyland’s designers from the get-go, and then over the years, no one quite knew what to do with it.
Tomorrowland might be like the World’s Fair, with an introduction to new technologies by various gigantaur corporations, or it might be a presentation of what the future would shortly be (space flight, mission to the moon), or it might, in its latest incarnation, be a jokey wink-wink at what we thought the future would be (robot maids). As much as I enjoy good French cynicism over red wine and coffee and cigarettes, a wink-wink at the future, at Disney World, is distressing. Cynicism belongs everywhere else.
For the upcoming show that the mansion is hosting, I have painted a lot on the idea of Tomorrowland. It felt strange because I rarely paint with a purpose. Most of the time I’m just painting to burn up visual fuel, to amuse myself. I was suddenly worried about being too narrative, being obvious or literal. I was suddenly worried about my sloppiness.
Do I like tomorrow? It’ll be Wednesday. Some time in the morning, I’ll probably get irritable and be running a script about what I’d rather be doing. I have to run to the Dollar Store during my planning period and buy cookies and Hi-C for the poetry reading I’ll host after school. The kids will work on their independent projects and practice commas. It’ll be all right. Most of that is good stuff. But the future? The future is too huge. The conceptual tomorrow is over my head.
Disneyland, built in 1955, came out of the glee of people who had made it through a depression and some world wars. Was it easier to believe in the future then? Or is it always easier for the lucky to believe in the future? Life has taught them to be optimistic. Walt Disney was lucky. He got to make many of his creative dreams come true, in spite of his lack of interest in money.
Christianity lives in the future, or looks to another dimension, and that’s when I hit the exit and escape to Buddhism. I’m a fan of “the kingdom of God is here,” but not heaven. I escape futures. Messianic faiths rely on the future, whether you think the Messiah’s on the way or on the way back.
Isaiah is a future looker, whatever you mean by the future. The crooked shall be made straight. The rough places plain. I don’t understand the difference between future living and the eschatological gorgeousness of Isaiah, which I know is not avoidance or discontent or monkey mind. I know that. I know it’s about transcendence, being bigger than you are, and being a visionary who knows the truth is here and is happening even if it doesn’t appear to be.
Since I became an adult, my imagined future always included a husband and kids. Since I haven’t acquired either, my future feels blank, which is intriguing, intimidating, and frightening. I’ve found plenty to fill my time, and I don’t know if that would feel different if I had my own family to attend to. Would the future feel so blank? I would have to keep to margins, and use certain colors of ink, and use a whole different vocabulary.
Tomorrowland is where you hover in flying saucers, meet aliens and feel their breath on your neck, rocket through the stars. Space Mountain is my favorite in Tomorrowland– speed, dips, lights freckled everywhere, ducking and laughing and screaming. That’s one way to approach the future, ducking and laughing and screaming.