Monday, June 30, 2008

#16 In Praise of the Ordinary

To pick up on the earlier "vacation" post, we too often take for granted the joys of the Ordinary. The word has pejorated a bit (as many do) from its initial borrowing, L. ordinarius, " regular, put in order." But it still has even divinical overtones in an ecclesiastical context. And for those Roman Stoics like Marcus Aurelius, there was scarcely a higher virtue than living one's life in an orderly fashion, reflecting the natural/rational order of the cosmos. We see it in the Tao, too. But not wanting to get too deeply philosophical about it, isn't it GREAT to get up to a cup of coffee (or whatever your "fix") EVERY MORNING. There's Ordinary for you.

But it's also representative of what I call the Sublime Mundane--those little trivial events in life, whether planned or not, that take on a kind of transcendence. E.g. the mail arriving on time, the spare roll of toilet paper, the right amount of change not to break a twenty, the reliable smile of a co-worker. You can easily come up with some more. Well, we cherish them, whether we know it or not. Consider the alternatives, like living in Baghdad or Mogadishu--they would KILL to be Ordinary...and they do. Or to be jobless, or homeless, or, indeed, lifeless.

But seriously folks, let comedy have a chance: Mary Richards (MTM) was complaining to Ted Baxter (the late, great Ted Knight), in one of my favorite episodes, about HER all-too Ordinary existence, and its depressing effects of late. She says something like, Ted, it just seems to be the same thing day in and day out, over and over.... Ted interrupts and seems to agree by going through a typical day. Yeah, I know, Mary. You get up, have a cup of coffee, go to work, see the same familiar people, do your job, go back home, get in bed, go to sleep, and then do it all again the next day. (Or words to that effect) But then in a conflation of canny script-writing and tour-de-force acting, Ted repeats exactly the same word and phrase, but with a POSITIVE tonal emphasis, infusing the hum-drum with wonder and excitement-- you get UP! have a cup of COFFEE!...WORK!... FAMILIAR PEOPLE!...BED!...SLEEP!...DO IT ALL AGAIN! Does this cheer Mary up? You bet. It's all in the "spin." She feels almost PRIVILEGED now to settle into her everyday routine. Surely some variety (and vacation) is the spice of life, but it needs to set off a well-prepared main dish. The Ordinary. Tasty.

No comments: