Well, if The Little Way Of Ruthie Leming does nothing else, it at least has inspired some really fine writing.
Here’s an essay Michael Sacasas writes about the concept of home. Excerpt:
The search for home is, finally, an eschatological quest. For many, this means that it is an impossible quest, or even that it is no quest at all, but a tragic and pitiable misunderstanding of the nature of things. For Christians, it means that it is quest whose end will not be found within the horizons of this life. We are always on the way and it would be the gravest mistake to think that what we long for, truly, when we long for Home is tied without remainder to any one place. But that does not mean we cannot, in our present experience, seek good approximations of that Home which our hearts seek. It only means that we must not make the idea of Home our God.
I was talking with a Dutch friend today, and told her that for the longest time, I was under the illusion that if only I could make it to the right place, All Would Be Well. Now I know that while some places are more conducive to happiness and harmony than others, there is no place in the world in which all will be well. That is the nature of things. If I’m settled now, it’s because I’m more settled in my own heart, and — to be frank — because I’m too damn weary to move again.
Writing in The Public Discourse, Michael Hannon makes the startling (and to me extremely flattering) observation that Little Way is at least a partial fulfillment of Alasdair MacIntyre’s Benedictine prophecy:
In the final line of After Virtue, Alasdair MacIntyre famously remarked that in our peculiar historical moment, “We are waiting not for Godot, but for another—doubtless very different—St. Benedict.” By this, he meant to encourage the establishment of subcultural societies, set up to safeguard virtue and to protect tradition from the destructive winds of change already gathering in our post-virtuous world.
“What matters at this stage,” he wrote, “is the construction of local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us.”
MacIntyre’s Notre Dame colleague Patrick Deneen gestured toward a similar hope in a recent essay here on Public Discourse. Despite the peril of our current trajectory, “We can change direction and even effect a kind of ‘regime-change,’” Deneen proposed, “though not by force of arms nor dictate from Washington, DC. Rather, we can live as a kind of ‘contrast society’ to liberal America—in our homes, our neighborhoods, our communities, and among our friends—even as we seek a change in America’s fundamental worldview.”
It would be hyperbolic to declare that journalist Rod Dreher has brought MacIntyre’s wait to an end and fulfilled his decades-old Benedictine prophecy. It would be similarly overdramatic to suggest that Dreher has realized the perfected form of Deneen’s “contrast society” in his rural Louisianan hometown of St. Francisville.
Nevertheless, as regards a more humane and virtuous way forward, Rod Dreher’s new masterwork The Little Way of Ruthie Leming serves as a significant step in the right direction. Subtitled A Southern Girl, a Small Town, and the Secret of a Good Life, the book presents an edifying narrative of localist virtue, encouraging communal ties while avoiding the temptation to paint an overly romanticized picture of communitarian living.
It is hard to express how grateful I am to these guys for their words. Today in Amsterdam I saw my friend M. for the last time on this trip — and, if her doctors can’t turn this cancer thing around soon, for the last time ever. We had a beautiful morning together, eating apple pie in the sunshine, and later sitting at her table back home, her telling me what she has learned on her cancer journey. We cried together, and held hands, and told each other, “I love you.” Cancer is so, so terrible; its ravages defy adequate description. But when beauty and wisdom, however rough, can be pulled out of that consuming fire, it feels as if the suffering wasn’t entirely in vain. Essays like these from Sacasas and Hannon are comforting to me — especially on a day like today — beyond my ability to convey.