I moved back to Levittown, Pennsylvania. I think I'm one of the few people that can lay claim to that sentence. It's not a bad place to live, but it's not a bad place to leave either. I don't think that I've heard anyone refer to leaving as "getting out" and I wouldn't want to paint a picture of one escaping from some dead, forgotten industrial town or urban squalor. Levittown tends to just be. I think that is a little stifling for most people. It's a place of endless outcomes. I could picture some German existentialist writing a sentence like, "Levittown is _________". I think if you try and fill in the blank, you will always come up short. It's like Nietzsche's abyss. It stares you in the face and dares you to label it, to try and fashion some sort of authenticity out of it. People in nearby towns tend to project themselves into roles that fit their "scene": the trendy shop owner of Newtown, the bookish Princeton wannabe of Yardley, the displaced Philadelphians in Bensalem, the 5th generation immigrants of Bristol... There is a story that envelops them. Levittowners are so hyper-aware of their history, because they have none. We all know the story, "William Levitt set out to make affordable housing for vets returning from World War II..." But that's a story, not a history. And it's a copy of someone else's story! (see Levittown, NY)
So why did I move back? I guess that is the underlying theme of this blog. Not necessarily an examination of Levittown, but the kind of soul searching that such a place can inspire. I expect this journey to be less a roller coaster ride than a vigorous hike, with numerous detours and wrong turns and turn backs. For the record, I don't think self-discovery is a worthwhile activity. But there is value in discovery that leads to insights about yourself. Did I hope to find something about myself, that I thought I would find when I left? Do you have to know where you've been to find out where you're going? Or did I just realize that it's pretty much the same no matter where you live?
So where does that leave us? That leaves us at a place where the world is changing rapidly, where every generation is growing more postmodern and isolated. Where authenticity has been replaced by materialism and distraction. Information Technology has put the world at our fingertips and everyone at arms length. So much of people's private lives are on display and we have played the part of unwitting voyeur. Information has been given a value and knowledge has been cheapened. So my game plan is to fix the kaleidoscope through the lens of this place. To look at pieces of our culture from where, I feel, it began it's journey to what we know it as today. I submit to you that the transition to suburban life has been the driving force behind the way we view the world, and that Levittown, PA is its capital.