Why Being Ordinary Can Sometimes Be Extraordinary.


51257508960_682c3c59af_oCasey Baugh – This Place Is Mine [2017] Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.

  • ‘We are all ordinary.’

“When you consciously choose to be ordinary, you become extraordinary.”

Jaggi Vasudev

Ordinariness is part of the human condition.

What do I mean by this statement?

Ordinariness is the baseline from which we all begin. It is a given, for all of us.

The everyday, the customary, the ‘normal,’ the ‘bog-standard,’ the humdrum, are ways of describing life for all of us sometimes.

Some days, however, are full of joy and excitement.

We might surprise ourselves by our creativity or inventiveness, or maybe we have had a special visitor, a wedding, a graduation, a windfall or an outstanding award.

We are all both ordinary and amazing.

“Living in the moment is learning how to live between the big moments. It is learning how to make the most of the in-betweens and having the audacity to make those moments just as exciting.”

Morgan Harper Nichols

We need the contrast, like we need to have winter as well as summer.

It is crucially important to accept the fact of our ordinariness, and not to be constantly looking at others’ achievements in a way that might damage our self-confidence.

Being satisfied with and appreciating what we have and who we are, and celebrating all that we do, is crucial to our happiness.

“Occasionally some individuals let the seeming ordinariness of life dampen their spirits. Though actually coping and growning, others lack the quiet, inner-soul satisfaction that can steady them, and are experiencing instead, a lingering sense that there is something more important they should be doing . . .as if what is quietly achieved in righteous individual living or in parenthood are not sufficiently spectacular.”

Neal A. Maxwell

Accepting the ordinary days, and the ordinariness within ourselves and our lives, will, paradoxically, free us to be extraordinary.

We may become relaxed enough to be increasingly creative and productive.

“My intention is to ‘seek the sacred in the ordinary.”

Clementina van der Walt

This can be a difficult balance to maintain, in terms of valuing both our ordinariness and the fact we are all part of something greater than ourselves….

“Only if I remain an ordinary human being, conscious of my incompleteness, can I become receptive to the significant contents and processes of the unconscious. But how can a human being stand the tension of feeling himself at one with the whole universe, while at the same time he is only a miserable earthly human creature?

If, on the one hand, I despise myself as merely a statistical cipher, my life has no meaning and is not worth living. But if, on the other hand, I feel myself to be part of something much greater, how am I to keep my feet on the ground? It is very difficult indeed to keep these inner opposites united within oneself without toppling over into one or the other extreme.”

C.G. Jung

If we can accept both our ordinariness and our specialness, without becoming either grandiose or beset by feelings of unimportance, we will be more able to value the difference between those mundane days and the special ones.

We will be able to reconcile the ‘ordinary’ parts of ourselves with the more creative parts, to take the rough with the smooth, to realise that we cannot be happy, or extraordinary, all the time.

In reality, it would prove quite tiresome if we were to be constantly amazing.

51211059045_8dbd1bb524_oDavid Hockney – Ian Watching Television [1987]Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.

“We are all ordinary. We are all boring. We are all spectacular. We are all shy. We are all bold. We are all heroes. We are all helpless. It just depends on the day.”

Brad Meltzer

If we always associate ordinariness with the uninteresting, boring, mundane or dull, we will miss the fact that, on an ordinary day, in an ordinary house, with ordinary people, we can be happy and contented.

Further, in such a situation, the extraordinary can emerge.


Superman in Superman: Secret Origins (October 2010). Art by Gary Frank and Jon Sibal.Wikjimedia Commons.

“For me, Superman’s greatest contribution has never been the superhero part: it’s the Clark Kent part – the idea that any of us, in all our ordinariness, can change the world.”

Brad Meltzer

From everyday experiences, we can discover the very special.

Most often, we cannot foresee when or if this will occur; sometimes it simply transpires, as a part of our daily life, that something amazing happens.

Some of us, sometimes, manage to do extraordinary things. 

For example, Sir Alexander Fleming, a far from ordinary physician and microbiologist, accidentally left a very ordinary unwashed petri dish in his lab, whilst on holiday.

He noticed when he returned, on an ordinary working day in 1928, that around the mould that had grown on the dish, there were no bacteria.

He realised that something in the mould was destroying the bacteria.

Thus was discovered penicillin, and from this, a whole array of different antibiotics; all because of a dish he forgot to wash, in the ordinary way we humans have of overlooking ordinary things.

An ordinary day certainly became extraordinary in that moment of realisation.

“Excellence is doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.”

John W. Gardner

Every moment has the potential to become special, and to produce unexpected results; we simply have to be aware enough to notice the miracles that are there, around us, even on the most ‘ordinary’ of days.

“There are no ordinary moments.”

Dan Millman

8668865316_6755975c49_oSir Alexander Fleming. Sandy Stevenson. Flickr.

“One sometimes finds, what one is not looking for. When I woke up just after dawn on September 28, 1928, I certainly didn’t plan to revolutionize all medicine by discovering the world’s first antibiotic, or bacteria killer. But I suppose that was exactly what I did.”

Sir Alexander Fleming.

“Little minds are interested in the extraordinary; great minds in the commonplace.”

Elbert Hubbard

  • Longing For Ordinariness.

The very poignant quotation below is related to horrific experiences in captivity during the Holocaust. 

What people long for during times of trouble, loss and deprivation, are the ordinary things in life, which many of us might take for granted, or even overlook, when life goes well.

“When my parents were liberated, four years before I was born, they found that the ordinary world outside the camp had been eradicated. There was no more simple meal, no thing was less than extraordinary: a fork, a mattress, a clean shirt, a book. Not to mention such things that can make one weep: an orange, meat and vegetables, hot water. There was no ordinariness to return to, no refuge from the blinding potency of things, an apple screaming its sweet juice.”

Anne Michaels

In relation to the pandemic, those who have lost family and friends, grieving their loss, may fondly remember the times they had pre-pandemic.

They may long to relive an ‘ordinary’ day with their loved ones.

Having experienced lockdown, we may feel that now, going out to mix with others, or having a holiday, seems to be something of an extraordinary experience.

We see it differently, and appreciate it more.

“Even the dull moments that make you long to be elsewhere, will prepare you for where you want to be, and you will have gratitude when you arrive there.”

Morgan Harper Nichols

“The secret to life is finding joy in ordinary things. I’m interested in happiness.”

Ruth Reichl

“Our everyday lives are filled with complex decisions. We long for simplicity and ordinariness.”

Ursus Wehrli

  • Impermanence: What We Can Learn From Ordinariness.

Nothing stays the same. Everything changes. Even the most ordinary times will, at some point, be likely to give way to something different.

Remember the image of the locked-down frustrated-looking woman I included in my post on 23rd February 2020, entitled All About The Gift Of Encouragement.?

As time has passed, and many have been vaccinated, this has changed and we have some freedom, despite some existing restrictions.

50876340243_cd7eb982ed_oJulia Fullerton-Batten – Grace Lee, Christmas, Lockdown 2, Tier 4 [2020]Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’”
 Eleanor Roosevelt

This woman in the image above expressed something for us all…. the boredom, the feelings of being trapped in a web of mundanity, the interminable, universal ordinariness of each day as it blended with the next and the next…..

“This virus will leave us entirely newborn people. We will all be different, none of us will ever be the same again. We will have deeper roots, be made of denser soil, and our eyes will have seen things.”
C. JoyBell C.

However, some things have come out of this mundanity. Books have been written, new talents discovered, poetry and music have emerged from the pain of lockdown.

Ordinariness is in the eye of the beholder. Some may see ordinary days as an opportunity….

“Literature is the art of discovering something extraordinary about ordinary people, and saying with ordinary words something extraordinary.”

Boris Pasternak.

“It’s when ordinary people rise above the expectations and seize the opportunity that milestones truly are reached.”

Mike Huckabee

  • Art And The Ordinary.

“The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude.”

Friedrich Nietzsche 

“If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches; for to the creator there is no poverty and no poor indifferent place.”

Rainer Maria Rilke

Artists have long known that there can be wonderful interest in the mundane, in the ordinary.

These artists are pointing out to us the fascinating aspects of objects, people, and moments in time that we might overlook:

Museo Thyssen- Bornemisza
            Domenico Gnoli – Armchair No. 2 [1967] Acrylic And Sand On Canvas. Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.    

“The world is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.”
Bertrand Russell

How much more would we feel able to stay with each moment if we developed a more curious attitude about the ‘ordinary’ times in our lives….

“Nothing is more precious than being in the present moment. Fully alive, fully aware.”

Thích Nhất Hạnh

Then, like the artists, we would be able to appreciate all that we may previously have seen as ordinary.

  • Valuing The Everyday, ‘Ordinary’ Miracles.

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

Albert Einstein

Museo Thyssen- Bornemisza

Pierre-Auguste Renoir – Woman with a Parasol in a Garden [1875]

“Who will tell whether one happy moment of love or the joy of breathing or walking on a bright morning and smelling the fresh air, is not worth all the suffering and effort which life implies”

Erich Fromm


© Linda Berman.

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