“Every day look at a beautiful picture, read a beautiful poem,
listen to some beautiful music, and if possible, say some reasonable thing.”
~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
You hurry to look at the sunset announced by someone standing at the window. Remarkable in its beauty, this setting sun of oranges and reds mixed with purple hues begs the question, “Has there ever been such a beautiful sunset?” Or the sunrise that makes its way from nowhere to suddenly streaming beautiful golden rays across your path. Oh, to see such splendor! Every single day, the sun rises, and it sets. This everyday occurrence causes many of us to reach for a camera, sometimes with a cup of coffee in the morning or a cold drink in the afternoon. How much more ordinary could an event be than the rising and setting of the sun? Within that scenery, we find a beautiful picture, a beautiful poem, and beautiful music. All that is left is to find, if possible, is some reasonable thing to say.
Looking for recipes that might allow me to create a spectacular dinner, I find that I almost always fall back on simple dishes: a baked sweet potato with butter on it and maybe a few dashes of cinnamon, a casserole with root vegetables simply roasted with a little olive oil and salt, or a piece of simply grilled salmon (for some of you, another kind of meat might whet your appetite). It is my desire to do more in the kitchen, believing that a simple dish is a cop-out, which pushes me away from cooking more. I sabotage myself with my expectations to exceed the ordinary.
We, as a society, I think, have gotten a little off track along the way — needing to have more, be more, and do more, throwing aside the pure beauty and satisfaction that comes in the ordinary. Thinking of ordinary things I enjoy:
- The moon — it’s crescent shape when it is new and its completeness when it is full
- A flower — the shape, texture, and colors in a petal; the faint or pungent aroma that it releases
- A person’s eyes — the bright colors of youthful eyes and muted shades in older eyes are to be treasured, as are the joys and sorrows they have encountered
- The wind — blowing gently on a warm day to move the stillness of the air
- Raindrops — as they hang onto branches and reflect the world like a mirror
“I love coming to your house because it’s just a regular house, it’s not so fancy,” said a teenager visiting our home one time. While it might not have put us in a decorating magazine, it was a great compliment that I treasure. It was the same kind of compliment that box companies should value about their brown cardboard containers. It is the box, not the toy inside, that entertains a young child. The fort that can be built from a big box and some plain old blankets will surpass any tent with a character’s face in its fabric.
If ordinary things are special just as they are, why do we want to make an extraordinary meal or purchase extraordinary things? Marsha L. Richins (University of Missouri) wrote, “…in three separate studies, materialists reported significantly more happiness thinking about their purchase beforehand than they did from actually owning the thing they wanted.” Maybe window shopping really is more fun than making the purchase, and living an ordinary life is special enough.
Extraordinary things are nice, to be sure. If I get to see the Swiss Alps in person, it will be extraordinary and wonderful. A fancy meal or a day in a spa are special, indeed. But it is the ordinary action of taking time for conversation, not the bright shiny gift, that makes us extraordinary people. In our adventures this year, let’s try to be a little more ordinary.