Just as dinner was cooking in the oven last night, the power went out. There was no wind, no rain, no reason except the power company’s rote “equipment failure” message. It took several hours for power to be restored. In the meantime, life becomes very very simple without all the usual myriad distractions.
Our daughter had been working on her last high school English essay of the year, an analysis of Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town”. The laptop she was working on still had battery power left, so she continued to type away, her face highlighted by the glow of her computer screen while the rest of us settled for candle light.
“Our Town” is a play set at the turn of the twentieth century, and an appropriate piece of literature to study during a power outage. It is Wilder’s sledge hammer blow to a society too wrapped up striving for the false gods of cultural ambition and success to notice that life, real life, is happening to us every minute in our relationships and in the places we dwell. We are a people blinded to what is truly meaningful to our existence, and to what really matters after we are gone.
As the main character, Emily Gibbs (yes, I was actually named for her by my drama teacher mother) says from the grave:
“Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? – every, every minute?”
The power going out reminded us to really look at one another. Power going out made us really talk to one another. The power going out reminded me why several years ago, I started writing about the significance of the routine and sometimes mundane details of my life.
I do want to realize life–every every minute.