I spent Thanksgiving morning enjoying a surprise… and a promise… one that pandered to the whimsical child that I have, in recent years, resurrected from a cold grave. I must admit, lamentably, that such whimsy touches my heart all too infrequently these days, but I endeavor to give it life with each passing day.
My days are filled now, halfway through my fortieth decade, with building a new career. Granted, it’s the career of my own choosing—at long last—but despite what you might have heard, it entails long hours and dedication and focus and a litany of things not whimsical. But the end-game is, in the final analysis, the creation of whimsy itself—of creating the fantastic and the impossible. And if I am truly fortunate, of sharing that with as many people as I can.
The first movie I saw in a theater—I couldn’t have been more than six or seven—was Fantasia, and I remember being enthralled by it, taken away and granted the magic of experiencing the tangible manifestation of human dreams. Perhaps it was that moment in which my own dreams of creation were born.
Not long thereafter, I came across films like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Mary Poppins. At the heart of these films is the reality of dreams crushed by the world and the wonder of those who discover a means by which whimsy can be resurrected.
I won’t go into the details of my childhood. Suffice it to say that there were troubles and angst—not unlike most children—but my formative years did take a toll on my pursuit of the dream. Perhaps the trouble was that I always saw it as a dream; that my own endeavors would never amount to my own, tangible manifestation of creativity. I was like the Birdman of Alcatraz who could see the sunlight and hear birdsong, but had convinced himself that he would never travel beyond the iron bars standing between himself and freedom.
And so, like so many others, I only dreamed the dream—gave up on ever making it a reality. I did what was expected of me and grew more miserable with each passing day. Somehow along the way, I’d forgotten the wisdom of those bright, cheery visions of life that, in hindsight, are far from impossible.
So, as I sat listening to Pentatonix (my creativity soundtrack and a muse of sorts) on YouTube this morning, a commercial came up—a movie preview to be precise. I normally click past them. I’ve made it a habit to deliberately avoid commercials. But something made me pause. Perhaps it was the image of Tom Hanks or Emma Thompson, or perhaps it was kismet, a message from the Universe that I needed to pay attention to for just a few minutes.
A few minutes turned into a series of previews that lasted the rest of the morning. The teary-eyed wonder that I enjoyed was a testament to who I was as a child, and what I find myself trying to become now.
The film is Saving Mr. Banks. And as I watched, I realized delightedly that whimsy is not dead within me—and it never really was. If you haven’t seen Mary Poppins, then you should. I don’t throw around “shoulds” lightly, but this one I pass on to you deliberately and with forethought. I think, perhaps, that we’ve lost a great deal in the twenty-first century that should not have been forgotten.
Saving Mr. Banks is about the creation of the film Mary Poppins, about how Walt Disney took a woman’s dream and brought it to life on that magical portal we call “the silver screen.” Specifically, it reveals not the saving of the children, but the salvation of the father… salvation from greed and the suppression of whimsy in deference to stability and security—as if the two can’t live side-by-side. I suspect that Disney might have understood the importance of cultivating both whimsy and success in life. There is no question that Disney was a master story teller, a prodigy whose visions shaped nothing less than the entire world. As I watched one preview after another, I found myself reliving the wonder and hope of my youth, but those visions were tempered by the wisdom and experiences of the past forty-five years.
You see, these are perilous times. Our entire nation, or at least its figure-heads, seem to have become Mr. Banks. As a nation we’ve crucified whimsy upon the cross of the almighty dollar. Ironically, when I abandoned my own dreams of whimsy in my mid-twenties (and in the name of the same thing) I sacrificed a child to become what my society said was a “proper” adult… and I became Mr. Banks. A decade and a half later, I realized my own folly, realized that the cost was too high.
I will go see Saving Mr. Banks, and in that experience I intend to do my best to grow even further into the whimsical and successful adult that I hope to become in the years ahead. And as I sit here contemplating that discovery, it occurs to me that it would be in the nation’s best interest if every Congressman, Senator, and corporate executive visit or revisit Mary Poppins and indulge in Saving Mr. Banks.
Perhaps the salvation of our nation lies not with battling legislative endeavors, but with philosophy of mixing success with the magnanimous gift of toppins to feed the birds.