Try to find the extraordinary within the ordinary, if you wish to change the world around you.
I was wondering one day—what if the moon rose once every hundred years; wouldn’t I be awake all night looking at it? What if the flowers bloomed once in my lifetime; wouldn’t I be taking selfies with the tulips? I don’t, because my mind perceives each of these spectacles as ordinary.
The ordinary is perceived as ordinary because my senses and mind have become used to it. I define extraordinary if it defies the natural law or is rare. Who has the authority to define the natural law? To a Neanderthal, the space shuttle would be a miracle, as would open-heart surgery. Our four-year-old routinely flatters me with, “Dad, how did you do that?” when I lift twenty pounds or scale four feet in one jump. To her, these feats are miraculous. Isn’t everything then extraordinary, at least from someone’s perspective?
A normal EKG may be a boring sight to an experienced cardiologist, but for a fifty-year-old man with chest pain, that normal EKG is extraordinarily comforting. An empty, dirty bowl in the sink isn’t particularly attractive, but if it shows that your child who is recovering from a severe illness has had her first full meal, the empty bowl is a divine sight.
This drop of water may have quenched a thirsty baby, nourished a hungry plant, or saved a dried-out cactus. Its next stop may power a great thought that could save the world. I should revere this drop as it touches my skin, lips, or hair. Each drop is precious. So is each pound of dirt, every rock, every cloud, each seed.
Looking at the inanimate as precious helps you treat everything around you with greater respect. Further, once you train yourself to find the inanimate precious, you become attuned to finding the animate precious. The man in front of you isn’t a means to an end. He is a dad, hubby, son, brother, friend, cousin, grandkid, neighbor, and colleague. He has helped many and has struggled with self-esteem and worries.
Expanding your imagination, you can think about how far he has traveled to be with you and where he will go after he drives on. This moment with him is precious, worthy of your full attention. When you stitch several of these moments together, you create your day. When you find meaning in what is in front of you, your days join together to gift you a life full of meaning.
You realize that every person is a product of a series of miracles—conception, the joining of two cells; rapid multiplication to create an embryo and then a fetus; growth of a heart, brain, and all the rest using a genetic blueprint; and then the miracle of childbirth, which changes lungs from solid to hollow structures and moves the fetus from the confines of the womb and dependence on the placenta to an independent existence. The infinite series of events that precede a child’s birth is a true miracle.
Let the noise inside your head, that of a busy life, not blur your eyes to everyday miracles or drown the quiet of your heart. Let technology, instead of becoming the primary distraction, free up your attention for deeper experience of the world and inspire kinder, more prosocial thoughts and nobler pursuits. Find the ordinary as precious, even miraculous.
Look at the moon today as if it were the first time you were seeing it. And there is nothing wrong with taking a selfie with the tulips.
Find the extraordinary within the ordinary.
@AmitSoodMD (on Twitter)