Friday, February 3, 2012

Life in the Ordinary

"All that is gold does not glitter"
--J. R. R. Tolkien

As a parent, one learns that when a son or daughter says "It would be neat to do something" or "We really should try this or do that," it always pays to ask the question "Why?" Sometimes, it pays more to ask "Why on earth?"  And the answer is usually the same. Trying or doing something or this or that would be different. It would be interesting.  It would be exciting.  And, when dealing with teen-agers, sometimes it might get someone killed.  But sometimes it really would be a neat thing to do and you do it.

We humans crave experiences that are new and different, interesting and exciting.  We seek them out. We rejoice in doing them.  We feel deprived when for one reason or another we can do them no more. And there are some we would trade for nothing else in the world. And yet,when practiced repeatedly any experience too easily becomes routine.  Even the joy of piloting an aircraft turns into "hours of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror." And no sane aviator ever chooses to experience that terror.

We are creatures of paradox.  We crave the new, the different, and the exciting and yet find ourselves constrained to live the every-day, the commonplace, and the ordinary. We live our days in a dynamic tension between the two, doing the ordinary but ever hoping for something new.  

It can make us miserable.

Or, it can be a source of comfort and peace.

I have learned to find joy in the ordinary and peace in the predictable rhythms of every day life. To me, the ordinary is wonderfully new and different.  No two days or seasons or experiences or circumstances are ever alike

I take great pleasure in watching the sun come up every morning.  No two sunrises are alike.  The colors, while similar, are never arranged quite the same. And I rejoice in each sunrise as it is.

I take pleasure in the routine activities of my existence, in going through the familiar motions, in applying my knowledge, skills, and abilities to accomplish familiar tasks.  Yet the circumstances and the precise application of knowledge, skills, and abilities can vary widely.  And I treasure that too.

All that is gold does not glitter.  All that is new and different and exciting does not announce itself with fanfare and trumpets.  Sometimes, the gold is hidden beneath the dirt and must be mined or washed out.  Sometimes, the new, exciting, and different is buried in the ordinary and must be found to be appreciated.  There is infinite variation and novelty in the ordinary. The one who seeks will find it.

What will you do this week to appreciate your life in the ordinary?

What new thing will you find there?