Orlando has one of the biggest convention centers I've ever seen. It's actually multiple convention centers connected by skyways between buildings that keep pedestrians covered and above the traffic. On Friday afternoon, as we walked back to the car, we stopped to admire the natural vista off to one side. I could hear the traffic that's never far away in a Florida city. But I also saw a grove of tall pines and maples in their full, green glory.
I thought of a long ago argument about Orlando and whether it's a fake city or not. Actually, we were arguing about whether or not theme parks are fake. I said that I wasn't paying the kinds of admission prices to go in to have a totally manufactured experience: "It's all fake," I said. My friend argued more vociferously than I had ever heard her argue before. Clearly, I had struck a nerve. I knew that one of her dreams was to work for Disney, but I didn't realize how personally she took a criticism of the industry.
I still don't want to pay the kinds of prices that one pays for admission at those parks--but more than that, I don't want to stand in those long lines at the park or pay even more money for a fast pass. But I thought about that argument about what's fake and what's not as I walked around the resort this past week-end.
I loved seeing all the lush vegetation, even though I know it's a manufactured landscape--but really, aren't many landscapes these days managed and manufactured? I was impressed with the wide variety and health of the plants.
I thought of recent arguments that we need church camps to keep an appreciation of wild places alive in us. But many church camps are less and less wild these days--at least the ones on the east coast. Many camps have a slogan that's a variation of "A Place Apart," but many of them are easily accessible by highway. It's not necessarily a problem--just a feature of modern life. As a child, when I went to Lutheridge, one of my favorite church camps, if I forgot something, I'd have to do without it. Now there's a huge WalMart right outside the camp gates.
I know that people pay a pretty penny to enjoy resorts, just like they do at theme parks--the social justice question of whether or not it's a good use of money is one that I'll save for a different post.
I know that resorts pay to have that lush vegetation not to preserve it or to give humans a longed-for green space, but for different reasons. I know that most of the people at the resort when I was there were not out appreciating the nature, but out appreciating the theme parks.
Long ago, I taught a Scriptwriting for Games class. We had interesting discussions about what constitutes real life--if a person spends more time online than out interacting with real humans, what is real life? Back then, we didn't have the types of social media that we have now. Now the question seems ever more relevant.
What is real, and what is manufactured, and if it's manufactured, is it less real? In some ways, these questions have always been ones that Philosophy handles better than any other realm of the humanities. In some ways, it doesn't matter. But in these days of paving over every vacant space and erecting huge buildings that may or may not improve our lives, they seem ever more relevant.
I could--and often do--spend lots of time wrestling with these questions. But for my 4 days away, I decided to focus on appreciating the green spaces that aren't often part of my vista.