Most people live ordinary lives full of unexceptional actions.
Indeed, the definitions of ordinary and unexceptional require a most, as that’s what gives their antonyms’ connotative weight. Yet I doubt most set the course of their life towards that end. Their ship – or car or soul or whatever handy metaphorical / metaphysical conveyance you wish – just gets diverted, crashes, or otherwise ends up Someplace Else.
How do we deal with this existential crisis?
I recently saw a play by Theater FOR Kids BY Kids called Pippin that dealt with this issue. The story is about a boy named Pippin who is obsessed with doing something extraordinary; something that would finally satisfy this natural, human all too human craving.
He goes to war, rules a country, has affairs and even flirts with committing suicide in a most dramatic – that is, extraordinary – way. But in the end he decides that true happiness is found in the ordinary life.
Not the play or the performance, but the message.
The play itself was great fun to watch.
Justin Murray, who had just one month earlier played Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web, again took the lead here as Pippin and gave another solid performance that required being in most scenes, singing, and quite a bit of moving about the stage.
His fellow cast members likewise deserve accolades for their deft handling of the material.
In addition, I appreciate techniques it employs such as breaking the fourth wall, where there is both being in a story and being aware of it being a story (sidenote: the TV show Moonlighting does this somewhat paradoxical — and cool — maneuver extraordinarily well).
And sure, I do get the message, just like I got the similar message in It’s a Wonderful Life.
And that getting part of me even feels good about their happiness at home message.
A larger part of me cringes as contentment is equated — intentionally or unintentionally — with settling.
At least in Pippin’s case he tried a variety of things first before ending up thus; poor old George Bailey never got to be the one thing, the only thing, he wanted to be: an explorer.
At only thirteen, Justin Murray gave the kind of performance that makes me think of Dr. Seuss’s Oh the Places You’ll Go. If he so chooses and continues to pursue this particular craft, extraordinary things are likely in his future; should be in his future.
But there is what we want to be, what we end up being, and the gap between them.
I’ve always taken issues like this seriously and as I get older – just turned 47 – the gap looms depressingly wide; a yawning chasm of Ordinary.
How far can I leap?
How much longer will I be able to leap at all?