Rod Dreher

Patrick Deneen caught the Off Broadway revival of “Our Town,” and had some thoughts upon leaving the theater. Excerpt:

The juxtaposition of Grover’s Corner and New York captures the essence of two different worldviews. In the one, the challenge of human life is to reconcile our capacious longings with our need for home, belonging and fellowship, and the scales are tilted decisively in favor of the latter. Mrs. Gibbs speaks longingly in the first Act of her desire to visit Paris before her death, but we discover at the end of the play that she gives her “legacy” – which was to fund her journey – to her daughter and her new husband so that they can make some repairs on their farm. The play’s end shows us that our ultimate orientation toward Eternity throws into relief the insignificance of the affairs of daily life, yet that the modest daily acts of cooking, cleaning, discussing the day’s events, are suffused with a kind of beauty and significance that too easily escapes us when we fail to notice the fact of living. The fellowship of those with whom we pass our lives, and with whom we ultimately lay in burial, connects the diurnal to the eternal.
In the other worldview – there again all around me as I exited the play into the Village bar scene in full swing – institutionalizes discontent, reinforces restlessness, and fosters and endless and intense suspicion that something better lies around the corner, reducing any commitment we might have to the “given” in favor of the “not yet.” “Belonging” is understood to be complacency; limits are seen as unacceptable oppressions; imperfection is a condition needing cure, solution, repair – and barring those, escape. Both conditions generate regret, because we are creatures of belonging and longing.

You have here something that’s not too far from the story of Ruthie and Rod. You can’t go home again, it is true, but it’s also true that consciousness of my dilemma is not the same thing as deliverance from it. Maybe there is some art yet to be created out of it.

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