Why don't we celebrate the ordinary?
I saw a tweet from a GP the other day. “If everybody is thinking outside the box, who’s in the box?”. It really made me think about how often we spend trying to be extraordinary, or exceptional, and how maybe we should spend more time celebrating being ordinary?
I hesitated to write about this. Newspapers are full of the extraordinary. The run of the mill standard day is rarely considered newsworthy. Reporters are looking for the extremes all the time. That incredible feat of bravery, that brilliant idea, or that horrific occurrence, more worthy of our attention.
I wonder what this is all doing to our psyche? All we ever hear about, or see on TV or social media is the extremes, good or bad. I wonder if it is conditioning us to feel like this is what we should be aspiring to all the time. Are we living with the feeling that If we are not striving to achieve some incredible feat, or some top result then we are inadequate, not getting the most of life. In fact even worse than that we are wasting our life, because we could be aiming higher?
Biologically our bodies are trying to keep us ordinary all the time, no matter what we eat or do we are working to keep consistency. There’s a medical word for it ‘homeostasis’- keeping things the same. It’s really important. Unless we maintain a stable consistent state we die. Temperature, balance of electrolytes, level of oxygen etc.
It’s impossible for us all to be exceptional. In fact most of the time most of us are not. It’s how we can judge when something is out of the ordinary, it stands out from what most of us are doing. So does that mean that the majority of the time we should consider what we do to be inadequate? I’m not sure how good it is for us to live with this culture.
‘Noticing’ is one of the five ways to wellbeing. My understanding is that it is about noticing the small things in life. Appreciating the ordinary and mundane that we often miss in the rush to ‘bag’ the extraordinary. I wonder If the wisdom of ‘noticing’ is that it releases us from an exhausting pursuit of high achievement and allows us to celebrate being ordinary.
It is a dilemma though isn’t it. We learn that the great progresses in human history are when people think outside the box. The things we celebrate are almost exclusively not normal. But I do wonder if this is helpful, is this really progress? I know ‘celebrate’ is an extreme in itself, perhaps we spend more time being comfortable with ordinary. What do you think?