I haven’t been on a plane to Florida in years. And why would I? My father’s railroad hands have allowed us to take the AutoTrain from Virginia to the greater Orlando area every time we’ve wanted to since 2000. Though it’s several times as long, the ride has provided me with two meals and the opportunity to watch the country pass by while I sit in contemplation. But here I am in seat 19C, gum in my mouth and seatbelt fastened. Jill is bringing me down to Walt Disney World with her mom and sister for her cousin’s 40th birthday celebration. It’s not a very long trip, but even a taste of Disney is worth the journey.
We land at the Orlando International Airport and take a monorail to the main terminal. I remember this from my youth, from the first time we visited Mickey Mouse. It was the first indication that I was entering a very special world, a place unlike anything that I had seen in my Delaware hometown. To me, that’s what Disney World is. It’s the wonderment of the world around you, a world that’s a combination of reality and imagination. Some people say that Disney World isn’t real. Well, what is real? Just because those buildings aren’t castles built by long-dead kings and queens or actual homes long since abandoned to ghosts doesn’t mean that they’re not real.
Since I’ve gotten back from Disney World, I’ve been diving deep into the history and criticism of this place and the man who thought of it. There are many blogs run by people who love the parks, especially WDW, and celebrate what makes it great while lamenting what sullies that greatness. One thing that’s great about the parks is the central beacon from which everything else flows. In Magic Kingdom, it’s Cinderella’s Castle. In EPCOT, it’s Spaceship Earth. In Animal Kingdom, it’s the Tree of Life. In Disney’s Hollywood Studios, it used to be a replica of the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. But now it’s a giant version of Mickey’s hat from his performance as “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” in Fantasia. It’s repugnant – not because Fantasia isn’t a great film, or because it doesn’t deserve recognition in that park. That giant blue hat is repugnant because it immediately draws you out of the intricate, immersive world of 1930s Hollywood. You realize you’re in a theme park, forking over $20s left and right for food and plush toys. The sense of wonder is gone.
Still, I can understand that we can’t spend all of our time in the world of nostalgia. The past wasn’t perfect, and it’s important to remember that. For that reason, I’ve always loved EPCOT and Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom. These are the places that celebrate the possibilities of tomorrow, the chance we have to make the future a better place than today. To recognize what the mistakes we’re making with our interactions with the earth and each other.
But now those places are being overrun by cartoon characters and low-brow entertainment. And it’s not that those things have no place in Disney World, or that it means certain doom for the parks or guests. But it reflects a distrust of the future that didn’t always exist. When the parks were first built, people were excited about the future. Sure, there was the threat of nuclear annihilation – but there was also the hope that we would come together and create new and better worlds. Colonies in space, lands underwater. Healthier interactions with the earth and the people on it. Today, I don’t see that. I see venom spat by politicians at one another. I see distrust of the system, a cynicism that assumes the worst in others. We don’t listen to the points of view of others – we call them bigots or elitists or declare that they’re ruining the country. It seems like we don’t realize that we’re all connected, that we’re all a part of making the future, whatever it is.
I want to have big dreams of the future. I want to imagine technology that helps us get closer instead of isolating us. With our voices and faces being able to travel miles in seconds, there’s so much possibility of collaboration and connection. I want to imagine that diversity is celebrated not for points in the game of public relations, but because it leads to richer discussions and deeper insight into the challenges we face as human beings.
I have a new album out. It’s called E Pluribus Album, and it would not exist if it were not for the many friends and family members I have in my life. Starting in February, I began reaching out to as many people as I could to create an album celebrating connections and community. The album is being sold to benefit City Year New Hampshire, an organization that I served with for two years. Many City Year alumni are on the album in various forms: vocals, words, drums, guitars. The Compass’ own Tim designed the artwork for the album, as he has done for my previous three releases. This is my best collection of songs yet, and I hope that you listen to it and consider buying it.
We are not islands. We need each other. I enjoyed seeing a new post on here a few weeks ago and I hope it’s not the last. The world needs visionaries. The world needs people showing the power of teamwork. I hope we can be some of those people.
It’s 2012, and here at The Compass we are beginning a great transformation. Anthony, Luke, Tim and I have been writing and sharing on The Compass for a year and a half. Our goals have always been to share our work and inspire others to use their creativity and minds to their full potential.
Now, we are joined by four other creative and thoughtful people. Our friends Hillary, James, Patrick and Sarah are adding their voices to this site. I am excited about the possibilities inherent in a more diverse group of contributors. No longer are the roles so define, the methods of creation so isolated. While you can still expect a song from me every month, I will also be posting prose pieces like this, as well as some other things that I’ll wait to describe until I actually make them. In addition to improving the quality and variety of pieces shared on The Compass, we’re also striving to provide a better venue for conversation. I am hoping that The Compass feels less like a textbook for our creations and more like a party where all the guests are curious and interesting, nobody feels forced to stand in the corner all night alone and the food isn’t just dining hall pizza. This is a more mature party for a more mature Compass.
It’s no accident that this change took shape on January 1st. I believe there’s something powerful in us beginning this on the first day of a new year, especially since it’s also the first day of the week. It’s as if the universe has aligned to provide us with a perfect starting point for this undertaking.
But maybe it means nothing. There’s a fascination with the new year as the opportunity to make a grand overhaul of one’s body or environment. It’s why gym membership sign-ups peak and why we create resolutions to do good deeds for others. But it’s not as if we are given new lives on the first of January. We don’t receive new families or new friends, new opinions or new values, new passions or new priorities. The opportunity we see in New Year’s Day to change ourselves is one we can find in any day, in any moment. With that ability comes the responsibility to live up to the opportunity.
So we here at The Compass must take this date and use it as a guide. There is a lot we can do this year, with everything we have now. Every day will be a challenge to share new and interesting ideas. Every day, we must seek to create a world in which creativity and contemplation are praised. Our goals — sharing and inspiring — will be at the heart of all we do, and I hope you continue to be a part of this.
With 1 year under our belt, we here at The Compass are feeling pretty fucking good. Pardon my language.
Like Paul and Anthony, I’ve also just returned from my own voyage. I went to Philadelphia, Connecticut, and Lake George NY. It was a blast, and my creative juices are flowing. I finally read Breakfast of Champions by Vonnegaut and The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I’m also two hundred pages through On The Road by Jack Kerouac, which will make Raven very happy. Speaking of Raven, if you don’t know her, she’s my big sister. She loves life, the beats, literature and Bob Dylan. More about her later this week. For now, here are my long over due links. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
1. Thomas Jefferson teaches a gorilla a lesson- Awesome art by SharpWriter
2. Up All Night-Blink 182 is back with their first single in 6 years. You’re welcome Anthony.
3. Walking Dead Season 2- A preview has finally been released, btw, breaking bad is back too bitches.
4. Dark Knight Rises- First official teaser trailer!
5. Cheesy Poofs- They’re now real.
I realized yesterday that we should be coming up on the one year date of the beginning of the Compass. So I looked and it’s actually today.
Unfortunately we all have been too busy to realize this, let alone come up with any sort of celebration but I would like to take this time to say thanks to everyone for reading, looking, liking, reblogging, and following us. We truly appreciate all the support. We started this, in part, to keep us motivated creatively and to keep in touch as we go separate ways. But nothing helps keep us motivated more than support from you guys. Thanks again, we always welcome comments, discussions and feedback. We have been talking about new ideas for the Compass to make it more of an experience so maybe we’ll use that to celebrate 13 months instead.
—The Compass: Paul, Anthony, Luke and Tim