As much as we think our identity, our thoughts, our perspective are immovable and stolid things, I am amazed how much one can really change over the years. Experiences can shift your whole world – or just a small portion of it. Change is fascinating.
For example, as I have aged, I have become liable to tear up at the drop of a hat. Okay, maybe not *that* bad; but when something strikes home, whether it be social injustice, the death of loved ones or familial strife, I really can’t help it. The tissues come out and the waterworks begin!
I experienced this yet again while seeing a play production in Pittsburgh: Our Town by Thornton Wilder. Not only was this my first-ever professional play production; this was the first live play I’ve ever been to. Perhaps Wilder isn’t as gripping or iconic as Shakespeare (on the bucket list!), but it struck home nonetheless.
Our Town is not at all grandiose or superfluous; bare staging depicts quiet and harmless town, tucked into the back country of New Hampshire at the turn of the 20th Century. Everyone knows everybody. Automobiles are a rarity. Three things make the news: marriages, deaths and the last drunken episode of the church organist. And most of this town’s children never leave. As the narrator said, no one of any importance has yet come from here.
Three “days” elapse over the course of three acts: the first introduces the main characters, a boy and girl in particular. In the second, these children blossom into adulthood, elope and marry. And the third… tackles death. I won’t say who dies (I needn’t give away the entire plot!), but I could not help but shed a few tears.
Especially as I am struggling mightily with my own sense of self-worth, identity and purpose, Wilder suggests a small gem: your life has meaning, joy and beauty, regardless of your “status” or perceived self-worth. Regardless of your status, gross income or locale, there is wonder and joy to be found.
Because life isn’t about the destination. We are all going to the same place: a long, cedar box under six feet of soil. What we do with our time here – the relationships we take joy in, the things we experience, even if they be as mundane as looking into the eyes of those you love – that is what matters.
The very act of living is beautiful. Don’t forget to relish it.