How should we take account of, question, describe what happens every day and recurs every day: the banal, the quotidian, the obvious, the common, the ordinary, the infra-ordinary, the background noise, the habitual?*
Can life ever be ordinary?
Maybe we just treat it so:
To divert the beam of your attention to nature, to take in the staggering scale of spacetime under the starlit sky or the miniature cosmos of aliveness on the scale of moss or the blooming of a single potted flower, is to step beyond the smallness of your own experience, beyond its all-consuming sorrows and its all-important fixations, and into a calibrated perspective that arrives like a colossal exhale from the lung of life.**
Time and attention transports us into wonder, and, as we too are expressions of Nature, we’re able to uncover the extraordinary in what has become ordinary to us.
Ian Bogost encourages us to play anything and find that it can be or become something else:
Heroism permeates ordinary life, in repetitions far smaller and weirder than the flow of the seasons and the years.**
Boredom becomes both a sign that we are not paying enough attention and a portal through which we access a richer world:
Boredom is the secret to releasing pleasure. Once something becomes so tedious that its purpose becomes secondary to its nature, then the real work can start […] games aren’t the opposite of work, but experiences that set aside the ordinary purposes of things^.
Give yourself the gift of ten minutes to gaze at something in nature and then of human origin.
Perhaps a snow-drop. Leaving it’s name aside, consider its colours, form, the struggle it had to arrive, the amazing engine of growth that holds its potential for another season when nothing of it can be seen above the soil, but can take in all it needs from the same soil through its fine roots.
Take an object from around you and consider it in the same way, forgetting its name and considering where it came from, why it was thought to be a good idea, who may have made it, how it came into being, how old it is and how long it may last, the things you might be able to do with it.
Georges Perec coined the term infra-ordinary to describe the opposite to the extraordinary that tends to dominate our attention – there is wonder in the so-called ordinary:
Tell about it.^^
*George Perec, quoted in Rob Walker’s The Art of Noticing;
**From Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: “I Go Down to the Shore”;
^From Ian Bogost’s Play Anything;
^^Mary Oliver, quoted in Rob Walker’s The Art of Noticing.