Monday, August 6, 2007

Our Town

In my previous blog I mentioned that I and my small group went to the play Our Town. I also talked about why this play means so much to me. God used it and a wonderful teacher (Ms. King) to wake up my brain and change my life.

If you’ve never seen a performance of this play, I strongly urge you to do so. I’ve read and seen the play about a dozen times, and I always get something new out of it. (I have to add that the performance at the Garage Theater was the most unique, and the most powerful, performance of Our Town I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, the production ended July 28th).

This 1938 work of Thorton Wilder is an absolute masterpiece. It has an ingenious way of bringing the extraordinary out of the perfectly ordinary. It is centered on a small town at the turn of the century, but it is cosmic in its focus. It is a play version of Blake’s maxim to “find the universe in a grain of sand.” It is hilarious and tragic. It’s a very odd and intensely beautiful piece.

As I experience it, the play is a call and an opportunity to wake up.

Emily is a passionate young lady who died while giving birth to her first child. Despite warnings from fellow deceased people in the town’s graveyard, Emily insists on going back to live one day of her life all over again. But she finds it too painful to bear. She sees that the living don’t really “look at each other.” They don’t appreciate the wonder of what they have.

Her brief visitation exposes how we who are among the living easily get lulled to sleep by the routines of our ordinary living. We do life on autopilot, half asleep. The wonder, the beauty and the preciousness of each moment is lost to the dullness of our mesmerized minds.

Emily – and Wilder – are challenging us to live in the now; to savor deeply the unexpected gift of existence each moment; to “look hard” (as Emily says) at the people we love and those who love us; to grasp this moment, right now, for the fleeting moments of our transitory existence are breezing past us with ever increasing speed, and tomorrow we shall be gone.

I found myself choked up -- and laughing -- throughout the play. At the end, all the women in my small group, and I (of course!), were crying. The play is bittersweet, for it captures the bittersweet quality of all of life.

Life is so full of wonder, so full of good things, and so very very short. You can’t hang on to one single moment.

This is what I began to wake up to in Ms. King’s 11th grade Humanities class. And this is what I’m still waking up to.

Blessings on all of you,
and remember to “look hard” at those you love.