That Extraordinary Humdrum Life

“Do not ask your children to strive for extraordinary lives.” So the beginning of William Martin’s poem reminds us all in his book, “The Parent’s Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents.” I love this poem. It is honest and, I think, it is the exact premise behind living a truly magickal life.

Make the Ordinary Come Alive

by William Martin

Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is a way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples, and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.

What most often is forgotten is that the ordinary everyday is composed of layers and layers of the wondrous and complex code that form the remarkable story that is your life. So even the most mundane day-to-day acts, like letting the kids play with paint or changing diapers, these moments root and bud from your most heartfelt of experiences. After all, those were the central moments, the heart beneath all those memory petals, that propelled you here. But it is the everyday moments, the predictable routines, the extraordinarily humdrum aspects of life that work behind the stage, shining light, illuminating, and allowing all other experiences take center stage.

I grew up not realizing I needed glasses. Because I did well in school, for the most part (usually in subjects where I was seated closest to the blackboard), no one ever suspected that I actually struggled to see things  from a distance. Not knowing any better, I just always assumed that everyone else saw the world beyond arms length as I did, as a muted blur of shapes and colors. It wasn’t until 7th grade that I finally had my eyes tested and my parents promptly went and got me glasses.

For reasons I am not quite sure myself, I decided not to put my glasses on until we were in the car, driving home. The moment I did and looked out the window, that moment remains one of the most profound moments of my life. It was the beginning of summer in the NorthEast, where I was growing up, and the leaves on the trees, with my glasses on, were just bursting in vibrant emerald greens. I had always assumed, in my blurred world, that leaves in the breeze all swayed, in a uniform and uninteresting way. But I quickly discovered that being able to see the way each leaf caressed the air, almost in a worshipful way, was like watching a school of fish dancing and glimmering in the ocean. The world and everything in it became poetry.

Even then, I knew with absolute certainty that underneath what I had perceived as the ordinary, most humdrum and mundane aspects of my life, underneath all that was a world full of magick and wonder. All I needed was a new way to see it.

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