Of the mundane and ordinary choices
There’s a scene in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz where Dorothy and her friends end up in a field of poppies, and they start to fall asleep, endangering their goal of meeting the “Wizard” and getting home. I often imagined that the daily grind and expectations for a life characterized by a 9-5 job and a stable salary to be the real-world equivalent of this scene. And it could be, if you fell asleep to routine.
If you had asked me when I was twenty-two what I was afraid of after graduation, it would’ve been that I’d live an ordinary life, not realizing back then that I was confusing “ordinary” with complacency. In reality, nothing is “ordinary.” Even the basic day to day activities we’d characterize as “mundane” in lieu of chores and responsibilities characterizes a life that needs to be led with an awareness of a gardener who knows that small things add up at the end. There are weeds to pull and seeds to plant for a season to come, but the result of those efforts are often extraordinary.
We don’t normally live our lives in those great epic adventures. It’s not so exciting anymore once you realize that much of what you read about in those stories as a kid were adventures that often strove to restore what is termed ordinary. Is it ordinary to have a job, a stable income, a family to love and a roof over your head? It isn’t when there’s a war; it isn’t when there is persecution and political instability; it isn’t when you’ve been diagnosed with a disease that threatens to cut your life short. That’s why none of those things are “ordinary,” not in a world with limited resources and a life with limited time.
But in the day to day decisions, either in the form of moral dilemmas and seemingly unimportant ones, there’s also that choice to either fall asleep or be awake. When you can so blindingly head off to your dream job without knowing the person you’ve passed the 60th time on the street, never saying hello and take the time to know that there’s another human being standing next to you, you’ve fallen asleep. When you can so easily ignore the daily responsibilities to fulfill some fleeting moment of pleasure, you’ve fallen asleep. When you’re making fear-based decisions that compromise who you are, you’ve fallen asleep.
When I was twenty-two, I was afraid of falling asleep, not understanding that life was in fact, never “ordinary,” at least not where choices were concerned.