Going Home Again? Not Likely.

by Mark A. Signorelli on March 18, 2013 · 22 comments <span>Print this article</span> Print this article

in Articles,Culture, High & Low,Region & Place

Aeneas' Flight from Troy by Federico Barocci

If I am correct, it seems there is a certain kind of arch-typical narrative that has become quite popular here at FPR, and in some sense, emblematic of its defense of place and home.  It is the “Going Home” story, the story of someone rejecting the allures of wealth and status in the big-city, and returning to the fixed traditions of his or her hometown. While such narratives are of great interest, in and of themselves, and while they clearly emerge from the sincere experiences of their authors, I find myself entirely unable to sympathize with them.  I suspect, moreover, that, taken together, such narratives tend to distort more about the reality of twenty-first century America than they make clear.  If I had to tell the story of my relationship to my own hometown, it would sound very different from the “Going Home” story.  But it might just have as much truth in it as those.

I grew up in a suburban Nowhereville in New Jersey, not the least bit distinguishable, in its appearance and tenor of life, from thousands of other Nowherevilles in this country.  Around the corner from my house, there was a long, desolate patch of road that ran through a soul-destroying landscape of abandoned warehouses, rusting trailers, and other industrial detritus littered about.  Yet besides this scene of wreckage on its perimeter, the remainder of my town managed to strike an appearance of neat suburban dullness – block after block of ranches and split-levels, punctuated every now and then with the odd strip-mall.  We did not even have the kind of small town center or Main Street that most of the surrounding towns had; it was just sprawl from one end of the town to the next.  Nor was the least bit of the natural environment preserved.  One of the most contentious issues in town when I was in college was what to do with the last piece of extensive farmland in the town, which was slowly being engulfed by shopping malls on every side. It was as if some inscrutable malice in the hearts of the town planners impelled them to extirpate the last link between the people and their land.  When I was a boy, there was a patch of woods growing behind my house; later, it was hewn down, and replaced by a development.  Whereas once we heard robins and cardinals singing in the backyard, now we heard our new neighbors playing rap music late into the night. I cannot think of a single place in my hometown where one could find a decent landscape to look at, either natural or built.  It was just mile after mile of insipid, characterless “planning,” which could not engender the faintest sentiment of warmth or affection among its inhabitants.

On the street where I grew up, isolation was the norm.  It was the kind of place where people came home from work, turned on the television, and had done with the outside world.  The kind of place where next-door neighbors did not know one another’s name. One cause of this atomization from house to house was the frequent turnover among their inhabitants, as families moved in and out of the neighborhood with regularity.  Many of the children with whom I played when younger had moved away before we reached high school.  Over time, the ethnic diversity of the families who moved onto the block increased, and the consequence of this – though it is highly contentious to say so – was only to exacerbate the fragmentation of the neighborhood, as the cultural gap between families grew far larger than the half an acre of manicured lawn separating house from house.  When the white families had parties, they invited other white people; when the black families had parties, they invited other black people; when the Asian families had parties, they invited other Asian people.  So far as anybody on the block had entered into genuine social relations with their fellow man, it was with persons living outside of our community, which, other than in a physical sense, was no community at all.

The growing ethnic diversity of the town had other effects as well, particularly in the schools.  I had good occasion to know of these changes, as my mother taught in the local public schools for nearly twenty years.  During that time, she earned a reputation as an extremely competent and caring teacher, beloved by hundreds of her former students.  Yet as she approached the end of her career, she found herself more and more on the receiving end of accusations of racism from minority parents, who would casually toss such charges around when she disciplined their children, or recommended they receive special education.  On one occasion, she was forced to appear in court to defend herself from such slander.  In the face of these parents’ baseless and self-serving belligerence, her administrators proved totally unwilling to fight on her behalf, as did the teachers’ union, which had picked her pocket for dues for decades.  When my mother finally retired, it was obvious that her frustration with this abuse (which, incidentally, was directed at any number of her fellow teachers) was a significant motive in that decision.  To this day, nothing excites my disgust for my hometown so much as the memory of the way this extraordinarily dedicated teacher was treated by a local combination of malicious parents and worthless educational bureaucrats.

The schools in my town had problems reaching far beyond the poisonous effects of identity-politics, however.  They are the same problems afflicting schools throughout the country – the disorder in the classroom and the hallways, the narrowing of pedagogical aims to the strictly vocational, the failure to transmit anything resembling our intellectual and artistic heritage.  I do not wish to sound ungrateful; throughout my schooling, I had a number of remarkable teachers, to whose instruction I owe much.  But they, like me, were confined within an aimless system, which had long ago abandoned any responsibility to tend to the moral development of young minds.  One of the most startling experiences in my intellectual development was when, once out of school, I began reading on my own initiative much of the classic literature omitted from my formal education.  A short list of these works included the Iliad, the Aeneid, the Divine Comedy, Don Quixote, and Faust.  It seemed to me as though my teachers had engaged in an extensive conspiracy to rob me of my proper literary patrimony.  But they did teach me the varieties of STD’s.  The situation was exactly the same in the Catholic as in the public schools; I moved between the one and the other throughout my youth, but found little difference between them except for the dress code at the Catholic schools, and their considerably lower rates of assault and battery among the student body.

I suppose I should not be surprised that the Church could not run its schools effectively, since, where I lived, it could not run its churches effectively either.  When I was a boy, the small local church we attended played a very large role in my upbringing, and in the upbringing of most of my friends.  But by the time I had reached my earliest maturity, it had become clear that it had ceased to be a place where any real spiritual work was being done.Sunday Masses were a most undignified affair; the chorus would sing cheesy folk music out of tune, and the priest would take his homily as an occasion to practice his stand-up routine. The parishioners, for their part, would arrive in tank tops, shorts, and, later, pajama bottoms, conveying the distinct sense that they did not really believe in the seriousness of the rituals they were attending.  Their constant chatter and commotion in the pews made it impossible at times to hear the priest.  In short, there was nothing even the least bit edifying about a trip to church, and well before I finished college, I had ceased attending services there, more than content to risk an eternity of perdition rather than suffer that slovenly debacle every week.

I could write much, much more about my hometown, but I think the point is clear by now.  The town where I grew up has been utterly transformed over the years into a place embodying all of the destructive and inhuman tendencies of modern American life, that are the repeated, and appropriate, subject of lamentation here at FPR: the atomization of our neighborhoods; the crassness and destructiveness of our greed; our lack of stewardship towards the natural world;our obliviousness towards our intellectual heritage; the rancid divisiveness of our politics; the frivolity of modern American religion.  My hometown is an absolute epitome of everything a Porcher loathes about contemporary America, a veritable minor kingdom of economic, cultural, and theological individualism.  So as someone who loathes these things as much as the next Porcher, I must simply say that I have no place to return to. To return to my hometown, to settle down there and raise a family, would represent, to my mind, an act of surrender; it would subject me and my family to all of the malign forces in our culture I wish to defy.  Consider just the schools; never in a million years would I allow a child of mine to be subject to the classroom anarchy and imbecility that now reigns in those schools.  Never in a million years would I entrust the formation of his or her soul to the brainless time-servers who tyrannize over the educational establishment throughout my state.  My hometown is the last place in the world I would wish to raise a child.  It is the last place I would wish to plant my roots.  It is the last place I would ever call home now.

To the contrary, one of the ruling impulses in my life since early adulthood has been a desire to get as far away from my hometown as I can.  I have not succeeded very well.  I presently live a short drive away, and return frequently to visit my mother, who still lives in the house I grew up in.  But I have tried, at least, to move away spiritually, to purge from my mind all the insidious habits of thought which life in the American suburbs cultivates – the consumerism, the indifference to beauty, the self-absorption.  I have tried to imagine what life in a properly ordered community would be like, and have tried modestly – through my writing – to advance the possibility of such a community.  This is why I think the story of my relationship to my hometown has its significance too, why it amounts to something much more than a bout of embittered grumbling.  Because it is through this story that I have come to learn the profound importance of a community of shared principles and ideals, of lives rooted in humane traditions, of a local habitation built in harmony with the loveliness and fecundity of nature.  Not because I have experienced these things, but precisely because I haven’t.  The narrative of “Going Home” centers on the discovery of the persistence of civil life in the place of one’s birth.  My narrative, a narrative of the inability to go home, centers instead on the deprivation of that civil life in the place of my birth.  Perhaps it is the case that that deprivation is a greater teacher than that discovery.  Perhaps it is the life of an exile which best impresses upon the heart, through their absence, the abiding importance of place and tradition, and ofthat indispensable condition of human flourishing, which is a home.

I may be wrong, but I believe that my story will resonate with as many Porchers as the “Going Home” narrative.  I know mine is not the only town in America matching the description I have given.  Of course, much will simply depend on each of our personal experiences, on where and how we grew up, so I do not suppose for a moment that one kind of narrative is any more true than the other.  But I have been struck repeatedly by a sense that the “Going Home” narrative omits something fundamentally important about our present historical situation.  In different ways, these stories all seem to underestimate the extent of the cultural wreckage wrought upon our communities by decades, and even centuries, of imposed liberal ideology.  They seem to overestimate the amount of genuine civil society remaining in our local communities, to be preserved and reclaimed. The “Going Home” story, for instance, seems to ignore the ubiquitous reach of our polluted “popular culture,” which leaks, like a waste seepage, into nearly every house in nearly every sort of community, from the cabins dotting the open plains of Montana to the massed high-rises in the Bronx.  Move where you will; you will not be able to evade its presence, or its influence upon the people with whom you live and work.  The same may be said of our political discourse, with all of its corrosive tendencies.  The identity-politics which plagued my mother in the last years of her career did not originate in our hometown; they invaded there from the broader culture, and so, I am sure, do they invade every nook and cranny of this country.  There is no protection to be gained from this toxic nonsense just by returning to the place of one’s birth.

The work we have before us, the work of restoring civil society, is a spiritual work, an intellectual and a cultural work.  This is something often omitted from the “Going Home” narrative.  The physical act of returning home in these narratives is, of course, intended to signal the possibility of beginning such a work, but it is remarkable how often the “Going Home” story fails to give much consideration to the tremendous effort such a work would entail.  Too often these stories stop short at the purely physical act of returning home, and tend to conceive of “place” in a strictly material fashion.Too often, the “Going Home” story dwells on the admittedly pleasant features of this or that locale, in the groundless hope that such things will provide a sufficient haven against the dark and frightening cultural winds blowing through our age.

We are at home when we live and work among people who see the world in a way that resembles our own, whose affections are kindled by the same kinds of things that kindle ours, whose ambitions in life are guided by the same kinds of goals that guide ours, whose tastes are attracted to the same kinds of objects that attract ours.  Those of us of a traditionalist way of thinking are unlikely to find many such people in contemporary America, migrate where we will.  We are therefore unlikely to find a real home at this time, perhaps ever in our lifetimes.  This is a stark, discomfiting fact to face, but it has the advantage of bracing us for the momentous spiritual labor we have in front of us.  For what we face is nothing less than the restoration of civil society from its very rudiments, a task of the most fundamental social reconstruction, such as few generations of human beings have ever had to undertake.  The “Going Home” narrative, to my mind, averts our eyes from this reality – at once terrifying and galvanizing – and comforts us with the delusive fantasy that there is something civilized left, when there is nothing left.  It blinds us to the fact that our proper homes are not waiting to be found, but to be built.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a piece for FPR about Homer’s Odyssey, arguing that Odysseus’ story of homecoming revealed to us the strong relationship between one’s community and one’s moral identity. I certainly believe that Homer’s prototypical “Going Home” narrative captures something timeless about human life in that sense.  But if I were to point to an epic story that captures the distinctive contours of our historical moment, I believe I would sooner suggest the story of Aeneas – the story of a man whose beloved home has been obliterated by rapacious and impious hands, who must wander as an exile among peoples sharing neither his history nor his gods, and who must endure one heart-rending peril after another in the attempt to bring his destined country into existence.  It is the story of a man who must find his home by going forward, not by going back.  That is the story that best captures the unique duties history has laid upon us now.

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Michael Umphrey March 18, 2013 at 2:35 am

I live in the town I grew up in. It has the problems that exist most places. None of its institutions seem to be working very well. It didn’t really have a place specially prepared for me. None of which seem relevant.

I remain mostly an alien amid post-Christian modernity and the sense of exile is quite within my understanding. However, I run into many people quite regularly whose lives I understand as decades’ long processes which I’ve observed.

I have 23 grandchildren, most of whom I see weekly. They know quite a lot about their great grandparents’ lives.

avatar Jack Shifflett March 18, 2013 at 7:32 am

Mr. Signorelli: You have my deepest sympathies for having endured such a hellscape in your formative years. How you escaped the social, cultural, and moral toxins of your hometown is something of a miracle, but escape you did, sir, and good for you. Even though you only managed to move “a short drive” away, it’s clear that you have put significant intellectual and, as you say, spiritual distance between yourself and the cretins by whom you were formerly surrounded. You remind me of nothing so much as a Walker Percy character, lost in the ruins and waiting for judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah. Don’t despair: judgment is coming.

In the meantime, we wait. And I wish you godspeed in your quest for a community of like-minded people, people with whom you can feel at home. As you put it so well, “We are at home when we live and work among people who see the world in a way that resembles our own, whose affections are kindled by the same kinds of things that kindle ours, whose ambitions in life are guided by the same kinds of goals that guide ours, whose tastes are attracted to the same kinds of objects that attract ours.” Home is not some bureaucrat’s nightmarish notion of diversity, an exotic melange of colors and accents and customs; home is where everybody knows your name and where looking at anyone else is (almost) as comforting as looking in a mirror.

Thank you for this bracing antidote to our useless nostalgia about “roots” and “community” and for the reminder that, in the words of Richard Thompson, “There’s nothing at the end of the rainbow / there’s nothing to grow up for anymore.” The end can’t come soon enough for me.

avatar Matt Shadle March 18, 2013 at 12:33 pm

So you won’t feel at home until you’ve systematically driven away everyone who is different from you in any significant way. That’s an appealing political message. Yes, we do need common bonds for a real community, but political life also involves dealing with our differences.

avatar Chris Schumerth March 18, 2013 at 2:25 pm

Sad and so true. So how do we keep caring?

avatar JimWilton March 18, 2013 at 3:28 pm

“We are at home when we live and work among people who see the world in a way that resembles our own, whose affections are kindled by the same kinds of things that kindle ours, whose ambitions in life are guided by the same kinds of goals that guide ours, whose tastes are attracted to the same kinds of objects that attract ours.”

It sounds to me like what you are looking for is a gated community — in Florida!

Best wishes to you — I prefer a community that challenges and stirs us out of complacency, engenders compassion. You can spend lot of time trying to arrange externals to minimize irritation– until you realize that irritation is what the untrained heart feels in contact with the world. And only then can you open to the spirtitual work of turning irritation into patience and love.

avatar Rob G March 18, 2013 at 6:35 pm

I am very committed to the ‘brighten the corner where you are’ idea, but also am strongly convinced that one can burn brighter in some corners than in others. The most productive may not necessarily be your home place of course, but I see no reason why it cannot be, under the right circumstances. It seems to me that one primary reason why some folks return home is that they feel they can burn more brightly there, even if the cultural miasma has found its way there ahead of them. There is thus more to this than mere nostalgia and sentiment, noting that those things aren’t necessarily bad in themselves. I see no reason to pit the metaphysical homo viator against the man who feels compelled to put down his roots in an earthly place that he feels will give his pilgrim soul a better chance to grow to full measure.

avatar pb March 18, 2013 at 7:33 pm

A couple of responses here are nothing but liberal platitudes that don’t really address the post – we can be tolerant of the weakness, imperfections, even certain vices of others, but they must be fundamentally oriented to the good.

avatar Kenneth Cote March 18, 2013 at 8:56 pm

Maybe Jesus tells us to love our neighbors because it’s one of the hardest things to do. I fail that test every day. The old man to my left hates my dogs. The retired people across the street hate my chain-link fence. I hate the kid behind me who stole my outdoor Christmas lights a couple of years ago. Ironically, we’re all a bunch of white people living in a quiet little suburb. Glittering generalities like “community” and “home” always lose their luster when the guy next door runs his chain saw after 8:00 p.m. and you’re putting the kids to bed. White, black, or whatever, I just wish my neighbor had some common sense, and I’m sure that for one reason or another he wishes the same about me. “Love thy neighbor”: I have a lot of work to do if I hope to upgrade to that Gated Community in the sky.

avatar Michael Umphrey March 19, 2013 at 12:49 am

I don’t think there are single, unconflicted answers to such questions as when one leaves and when one stays.

In my thinking, I’ve been influenced by Native American culture–I live on a Reservation. Among some members of that culture, it’s not really possible to leave even though conditions are sometimes desperate, because we are our relationships and we can’t really live apart from them.

I have questioned the idea that it’s sensible to leave family and friends for career propects–though to be honest I’ve also questioned my refusal to do so.

I’ve also been influenced by the Wendell Berry who observed that the world’s curse is the man who wishes he were somewhere else.

avatar Ray Olson March 19, 2013 at 10:45 am

Thank you, Mr. Signorelli, for exposing some of the sentimentality of the going-home narrative and for pointing to Aeneas’s home-seeking as equally indicative of what discovering one’s place in the world can be. Although I “always knew” I’d go back home when I retired, I didn’t in fact go back to the home and community in which I grew up, just to the nearby (within 10 miles) place in which, as it happens, my father grew up. What was important to me, I guess (there were matters of practicality that were decisive), was patriotism for a concentricity of places–neighborhood within city within county within state within region–none of which would confiscate my treasure, my family, and my life as a nation would without a second–hell, even a first–thought. I have never–not even in childhood–nursed the fantasy that I could be “among people who see the world in a way that resembles [my] own, whose affections are kindled by the same kinds of things that kindle [mine], whose ambitions in life are guided by the same kinds of goals that guide [mine], whose tastes are attracted to the same kinds of objects that attract [mine].”

avatar Art Nesten March 19, 2013 at 3:01 pm

What a incisive and provocative post; the material can easily engender some discussion among the contributors here. I hope some of the FPR writers chime in with their thoughts.

I have a few, which are necessarily though implicitly theologically grounded.

First, thank you for this honest reflection. You are right that there are readers who share your experiences.

Second, there are instances when a Porcher is justified in leaving their homeland; to take an extreme example, when a volcano is about to erupt a mile away and complete devastate the surrounding ecosystem for years to come. It would make an idol out of physical place to heroically stand there and die for the sake of “roots,” when the commitment to place is really for the sake of man, not man for the sake of a commitment to place.

As a fellow NJ native who did not move in order to escape the town, but nonetheless has done a similar thing in limiting my exposure to a toxic family (another “natural community”), I think such decisions are probably the right (though sad) thing. And yet, like my family for me, one’s place of origin will always be a part of a person, and the whole person is redeemed.

Third, your tone with respect to the disorders of modernity is quite appropriate and in line with an image of our work as spiritual warfare.

Fourth, I think going forward to build (contra classical heroes) involves compassion for lost sheep and a measure of gentleness with respect to persons. The spiritual war is an invasion, but one of heavenly kindness towards neighbors and not mere dismissal, though I may be misreading your tone.

Thanks again for writing this.

avatar Josh March 20, 2013 at 11:59 am

I dread using the term “intentional community,” but it may be the only realistic possibility for beginning the necessary cultural work of which you speak. For Catholics, that may be finding a decent monastary or university and move nearby.

The romantic spirit of going home (in my case, staying home) once fired my imagination. I still admire many, especially Bill Kauffman and Kate Dalton, who keep finding things of value in small town America. However, my once bright and hopeful imagination has been darkened by the daily encounters with the sloth, ugliness, apathy, and stupidity of my native region.

avatar Linda March 21, 2013 at 6:29 pm

Jim Wilton, I think you are not understanding Mr. Signorelli. There is a difference between a working class or a poor neighborhood that has a sense of community and shared values; and a broken down neighborhood with abject poverty, crime, and no sense of community or shared values. The first one you might grow out of and want something different and one day go back to. The other you escape from and never go back to, even it improves (bad memories). A real town is many things, but a good town is where you feel a sense of place – and there are not many of us who would admit that they feel most at home in a town that no one living there cares about.

avatar Jeff Culbreath March 22, 2013 at 2:38 am

“Home” – the place where one has been raised – should always be preferred and given the benefit of the doubt. But sometimes there just isn’t enough “there” there. They say that home is where your heart is, and that’s pretty close. But more precisely: home is where your people are.

avatar love the girls March 22, 2013 at 9:38 pm

Very nice article.

“We are at home when we live and work among people who see the world in a way that resembles our own, whose affections are kindled by the same kinds of things that kindle ours, whose ambitions in life are guided by the same kinds of goals that guide ours, whose tastes are attracted to the same kinds of objects that attract ours. Those of us of a traditionalist way of thinking are unlikely to find many such people in contemporary America, migrate where we will. We are therefore unlikely to find a real home at this time, perhaps ever in our lifetimes. ”

The solution is form small pockets, much the same as neighborhoods previously existed of small pockets within a more diverse society.

Unfortunately, the car culture of drive to personal parishes and drive to home schooling groups, and drive to whatever has changed our perception of the necessity of closeness being necessary, even among the traditionalists.

avatar Dave Dutcher March 23, 2013 at 5:38 pm

I think too many Front Porchers say local when they mean commune. Real communities decay when people who have the power to sacrifice or uphold them leave. On a macro level, that’s why your hometown died; too many people “left” in the sense that they either directly moved out and enriched other places (like big urban cities,) or that they embraced societal changes like focusing on knowledge/credentialed work instead of unskilled labor, keeping wages low, or being single and remaining mobile and rootless.

It doesn’t need some kind of “people who see the world in a way that resembles our own, whose affections are kindled by the same kinds of things that kindle ours…” No community had that entirely. They just were willing to stay and make roots, even if the greater community was opposed or hostile. If you’re going to require that, you want some weird shiny-rural distributism organic commune, and the history of communes in general over hundreds of years isn’t cheering.

avatar amazona March 24, 2013 at 10:55 am

You expressed my sentiment exactly. Romantic notions of returning home are not helpful and actually keep us from using our imagination for creating a new way to be at home. As an immigrant, we moved 10 times in 12 years trying to find a place in American society. As an adult I live in a house for 22 years and raised my children in a large city. During those 22 years we saw the entire street turn over many times. In the end we were the only ones that had been there that long and we did not see any reason for staying. People did not know each other, so this idea that people should go back “home” is utopian. There is no home to return to. As modern people we are all misplaced people from cradle to grave. My refuge has been my faith that binds me to people no matter where I go, but a commitment to a physical place has eluded me. My husband grew up for 18 years in mid-size southern town – a Leave it to Beaver sort of place, ideal for a place to return. He can’t go back home either because no one is left not even his parents, pillars of the community.

While I have appreciated the work of Wendell Berry we need a vision for how to live in a dense urban environments with strangers crossing our path most of the day. A monastery will not do for most people. We can not return back to the land. Eden is closed. How do we make cities livable with a semblance of home?

avatar Peter Greenman March 26, 2013 at 1:46 pm

The parallel between our time and the tale of Aeneas is well drawn. Yet, to cavil, I tend to agree with David Bentley Hart in his still-stunning old essay that ours is not a time for rebuilding. Simply surviving this new dark age is our calling; we are to remember and transmit as best we can. Some future generation will rebuild from our salvage.

http://www.firstthings.com/article/2007/12/christ-and-nothing-28

avatar Kate Dalton March 26, 2013 at 4:19 pm

Just a few points: first of all, I have sympathy for the difficulties of Mr. Signorelli’s growing up, and we are all dealing with those problems to some lesser or greater degree. That includes me, in my native Louisville, and I feel sure it includes Bill Kauffman, on the edge of Batavia, and Mr. Berry, in his far from perfect small town in north central Kentucky–a place I also know, though not as well as he does.

Nevertheless, “sentimentality” in your mouth may be simple “sentiment” in mine. Those of us who have a home that is lovable, warts and all, will probably be moved by it. I am sorry everyone does not have that joy (so often mixed with frustration, anger and sorrow as well as amusement and astonishment); I wish everyone could.

We have always been a country of what Stegner called stickers as well as boomers, and one story–the boomer story, or Mr. Signorelli’s story–doesn’t make all other stories impossible. As I have said before, if I (or Bill, or others here) argue hard for the hometown camp, it is because each one of us has to witness to life as we see it–and also because we have a lot less company than Mr. Signorelli does, to whom I wish the good community we all long for.

avatar Jack March 28, 2013 at 9:00 am

I don’t think there’s much point in trying to figure out how to fix society. I think that the ability to do that is so far beyond the power of any individual or group of individuals that it is just a waste of precious life and energy to set that as some sort of goal. Society is something that has a life of its own beyond that of any individual and which will evolve as it will evolve. Those who seem to be leading it are only in leadership positions because they wanted to lead in the direction that society was going to go anyway…and the day that they try to lead society in a direction it isn’t moving on its own anyway is the day that new leaders are chosen.

Instead our focus should be on waking up in our own lives, on learning how to live well, on learning how to create beauty and perceive beauty. Wake up! There’s no time to waste stewing about the direction “society” is going. Society will go where it will. We can watch it like you would watch a gigantic lumbering beast or like you would watch the weather…things you can’t control, things you need to keep an eye on to stay out of the way of, things that can be beautiful or terrifying, but otherwise things that are really peripheral to the real purpose and joy of life.

I think the wise thing to do is to find a community of like-minded people where and how you can, and enjoy your time with them, learning and growing. That doesn’t mean ignoring or shunning those who are different but the reality is that being around people whose values and goals and worldview and personalities and culture are significantly different from you is, for most people, work rather than enjoyment. I think it’s a wonderful idea to be a tourist occasionally and visit other peoples’ lands and cultures. But the meat of life, the core of it, is not going to be found by being a wanderer among others’ lives and cultures and homelands, looking endlessly for new cultural thrills, congratulating yourself on being so cosmopolitan. After all, if everyone lived like that, there would be no interesting places to visit because every place on earth would be just another chaotic, soulless, rootless mishmash of friction and alienation like so many “diverse” cities in America have become.

But again, we can’t fix that ourselves. It’s beyond our power and it would be a waste of years or decades of precious attention energy to try to do so. Instead I think we should seek out like-minded people where we can find them and build our communities as we can, being flexible and joyous and consciously adopting a spirit of floating above the turbulence of a liberal society that is in the process of discovering that liberal principles destroy any society that tries to adopt them.

avatar David Naas March 28, 2013 at 8:47 pm

Personally, I moved 1453 miles from my home town to find a place wherein I could settle, raise kids, and make peace with God and myself.
I understand, Mr. Signorelli, indeed, I do!

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