30 April 2009

When in doubt, turn to Stephen Sondheim

Someone very near and dear to me is going through a rough patch right now and it's painful to watch. I know it's a stereotype, but I'm convinced that the answers to all of life's questions can be found in the Stephen Sondheim songbook. Paradoxically, the answer is that there's no answer and I find that really satisfying. Maybe no answers, but there's wisdom galore.

The situation I have in mind reminds me of 1987's Into The Woods. If you're not familiar with Into The Woods, the story is essentially an exploration of human dissatisfaction with happily ever after endings. 

In the following scene, The Baker, played by Chip Zien, confronts his father, a Rumpelstiltskin character played by Tom Aldredge. The Baker had been abandoned by his father when the Baker was a small boy. He runs into his father as he's running away from his own family and responsibilities.

I'd cut this video clip down to the meaty part I'm after if I could, but alas I have to run the whole four minute clip. The good stuff starts at 1:52. Here are the lyrics if you're in the mood to follow along.
Running away- let's do it,
Free from the ties that bind.
No more despair
Or burdens to bear
Out there in the yonder.

Running away- go to it.
Where did you have in mind?
Have to take care:
Unless there's a "where,"
You'll only be wandering blind.
Just more questions.
Different kind.

Where are we to go?
Where are we ever to go?

Running away- we'll do it.
Why sit around, resigned?
Trouble is, son,
The farther you run,
The more you feel undefined
For what you've left undone
And, more, what you've left behind.

We disappoint,
We leave a mess,
We die but we don't...

We disappoint
In turn, I guess.
Forget, though, we won't...

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