Lessons Learned from a Broom and Bucket
By Ed Delph
May 30, 2022
I grew up in the 1950s in Phoenix, Arizona. Like me, most of you baby boomers will remember the Disney movie Fantasia made in 1940. I didn’t know what was going on in the film other than it got boring about halfway through. That was about the time the hippos dressed in tutus started dancing.
However, I do remember two of the eight compositions and accompanying film parts vividly. I remember the scary ones, A Night on Bald Mountain, and especially our subject for today, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. The Sorcerer's Apprentice is based on a poem written by German poet Johann Wolfgang (von) Goethe in 1797. Later, French composer, Paul Dukas, wrote a music score to Goethe's poetry in 1897.
According to Wikipedia, the poem begins as an old sorcerer departs his workshop, leaving his apprentice with chores to perform. Tired of fetching water by pail, the apprentice enchants a broom to do his work – using magic in which he is not yet fully trained. Unfortunately, the floor is soon flush with water, and the apprentice realizes that he cannot stop the broom because he does not know how to stop it.
The apprentice desperately splits the broom in two with an ax to stop the out-of-control broom. Then each piece becomes a whole new broom, takes up a pail, and continues fetching water, now at twice the speed. The brooms begin multiplying themselves, and chaos ensues. When all seems lost, the old Sorcerer returns and quickly breaks the spell. The poem finishes with the Sorcerer's statement that the Master himself should only call powerful spirits.
In the Disney piece, which retains the title "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," Mickey Mouse plays the apprentice, and the story follows Goethe's original closely, except that the Sorcerer ("Yen Sid," or Disney spelled backward) is stern and angry with his apprentice when he saves him. Fantasia popularized Goethe's story to a worldwide audience. The segment proved so popular that Disney repeated it in its original form in the sequel Fantasia 2000.
That was a hard lesson for Mickey to learn. Maybe this is a hard lesson for us modern humans to learn also. Power and authority in untrained and undisciplined wrong hands create multiple, never-ending, ever-increasing problems beyond their ability to solve. Mickey had enough knowledge to be dangerous. But unfortunately, Mickey lacked the skill and wisdom to control great power.
What caused the problem? Mickey wanted to be someone he wasn’t, Yen Sid, the Sorcerer. He was tired of doing things the same way. Most folks are like Mickey. They don't know what they want, but it's something different from theirs. The greatest enemy of progress is not stagnation but false progress. The lesson: A bright eye indicates curiosity. A black eye, too much!
One manageable, productive broom and bucket multiplied one thousand times and turned into unmanageable, utter chaos. The power Mickey released ended up overpowering him. Uncontrollable brooms and buckets would have overcome the whole world if the one who knew what to do and had the wisdom and power didn’t save the day. So the Sorcerer's last statement is, "the master himself should only call powerful spirits." Not bad advice, I would say.
Watching what is going on in our country and the world today, I am concerned. Have you noticed that the more human logic, reasoning, and the deification of man try to edge God’s wisdom out of our culture, education, government, and nation, the more problems it creates? Have you noticed all those unmanageable brooms and buckets made by these so-called leaders of the Mickey ilk multiplying faster than a speeding bullet?
That’s not negative; it's reality. We have heaps of sometimes well-intended Mickeys trying to do what only the Master can do. Knowingly or unknowingly, they are Edging God Out rather than Exalting God Only. That’s called E.G.O. Ego-driven activism means keeping your foot on the gas even when it’s time to step on the brake. Advice is seldom welcome, and those who need it most like it least. Though well-intending, fallen human nature can never stop all the problems we humans can create.
Long ago, the writer of Psalm Two in the Bible prophetically foresaw this continuous loop saga. “Why the big noise, nations? Why the mean plots, people? Earth leaders push for position, Demagogues and delegates meet for summit talks, God deniers saying: ‘Let’s get free of God.’”
Oops! This rhetoric and way of living create many problems; ask Mickey.
The Psalmist says: "So rebel-kings, use your heads; Upstart judges, learn your lesson; worship God in an adoring embrace. If you make a run for God, you won't regret it." This advice wasn't critical. It is loving advice for us humans, by our loving Creator. The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved with criticism.
Another analogy for today's problems is Humpty Dumpty, lying fragmented on the ground after falling off a wall. Have you ever wondered why all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again? Perhaps it’s because they forgot to ask the king.
Ed Delph is a leader in church-community connections.
Visit Ed Delph's website at www.nationstrategy.com