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Fighting the Amusement Park Syndrome, Part 1

12/20/2011

This post begins a discussion of something that’s been on my heart and mind for a while. It’s definitely (and hopefully obviously) something I’m still working through and will have to be for a long, long time.

THE ISSUE

The amusement park: a place of wonderment and happiness for all. Booths and attractions up the wahzoo, the thrill of the 50G roller coaster, torso-sized turkey legs and not-so-personal pizza slices, impossible games that offer ridiculous prizes, and, of course, the token merry-go-round.

It’s almost like you could spend your whole life there and not get bored…

Life would be great, wouldn’t it? The worries of the outside world would be gone. You could spend weeks on the ferris wheel taking in the view, and you could even sleep on it just to see what it felt like. Then, when you got tired of the ferris wheel, you could work your way up to the spinning tea cups. Then, the roller coasters. All along, you’d be munching on hot dogs and garlic fries and taking photobooth pictures with every one of your friends.

Endless amusement.

Life would be great… for a while. Then, the amusement would start to wear off. For some, this disillusionment might come rather quickly. For others, it would take a long time (if ever) for the amusement park life to become a drag. Even the thought of going back to the outside world would be too much.

Our generation lives with this situation, an “amusement park syndrome” of sorts. We live in a world of accessible entertainment: the smart phone, the laptop, the television, the television on the laptop, and everything else in between.  Most everywhere we turn or go has access to an entertainment outlet.

We can’t go a few hours without seeing an analogy from an episode of our third favorite show.  The television becomes “just background noise.”  Video games slice into the possibly-necessary-not-quite-scheduled-in-but-important category.  Whatever the specific issue, life becomes defined by things that entertain and amuse us rather than things that take effort and discipline.  We let the world of entertainment and amusement define, run, and fuel our lives.

Three ideas, to help us further set bounds for THE ISSUE:

#1: Our lives are endlessly amusement-oriented.  This is no new idea of mine.  But it’s the basic idea of the “amusement park syndrome.” We entertain ourselves with everything in sight.  When we run out of easily accessible ways, we find new ways to entertain ourselves.  And since so many of these outlets and influences are “endless” (new hilarious online videos everyday, video games that you can’t just beat and be done with, multiple season shows that overlap with other multiple season shows that are stream-able anytime, etc.), we’re set to spend a lifetime with the “amusement park syndrome.”

#2: The world around us is going to be the way it is.  The outlets and influences will be there.  Nothing’s going to change.  At the same time, we’re going to need to live in this very same world to carry out what the God of the Bible has set out for us.  So to skip ahead just for a little and so you don’t think I’m crazy: I’m not calling for a wholesale change of the way we live, the places we go, or even the phones that we have.  Changing specific behaviors or monk-ifying our lives isn’t going to change anything.  Always, always— heart issues and not behavior modification.

#3: It’s a lot worse than we think.  I’m no conspiracy theorist, but our generation has this mentality deeply engrained in us.  Partly, this is because our generation has grown up with these influences, but at the same time it’s grown into an accepted way of life.  It’s an accepted way of life, so long as you go to church and fellowship, read your Bible more often than not, and have at least a mediocre prayer life.  In this “amusement park syndrome,” we can’t see the world outside of it.  This means that with this issue, we need to dig quite a bit deeper than we realize.

And… we’ll dig deep.  Like I said, this “amusement park syndrome” is something I am always wrestling with in my own life.  I’m excited to work through this one more.  Part 2 soon.

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