Monday, July 06, 2009

Small things - everyday life

Last week I wrote a couple of posts about seemingly ordinary activities in ordinary life, questioning, really, or stating definitely that there seems to be nothing ordinary about life. After all, upright, living, breathing, thinking, caring, sometimes careless, loving child of God walking around on a globe spinning through space with millions of other creatures, some god-like and some not, searching for food, clothing, shelter, and the "meaning" of life - I mean, since many of us humans might fall or fit into those categories, does that mean our lives are ordinary? I don't know, but I keep coming upon events and statements that point to the fact that life is not ordinary - ordinary reads as "boring" doesn't it? Ordinary reads as not important to value other than one's own activity......

For example, yesterday I was finishing up Thomas Moore's, Care of the Soul, and this statement jumped off the page at me -

"The small things in everyday life are no less sacred than the great issues of human existence."

So what small things, brushing my teeth, bathing, reading morning prayer, noticing the cool air of the morning, the birds at the feeder, a trip to the grocery, a trip to the YMCA, a note to a grieving friend? How are these things sacred - upon reflection you know, they really are, but what if -

*I accidentally drive too fast in a school zone or in my child-filled neighborhood, whether children are present or not
*I become impatient with a fellow shopper in the checkout line who has decided to write a check rather than swipe a credit card, and is slower at writing than Methusaleh was
*I stop and think about dinner prep for myself and spouse rather than throwing in a boxed meal, or think to unload the dishwasher, just because, rather than waiting for him to do that task which he dislikes so much
*I think about volunteering to sit with a child and listen to them read in a language other than their own
*I take a moment to read a piece of literature that challenges my mind and daily activities
*I take a moment to remember the sick, the infirm, the young people of Iraq, the young people of the United States serving in Iraq or remember the prisoners in North Korea, the oppressed in China, the oppressed in America
*I take a moment to write a check to an organization that maintains God's credibility working in the world by feeding the hungry and sick
*I stop the car in order for a pedestrian in the crosswalk to tread safely across the street

Are these too ordinary to be sacred? What to do you think about small things in everyday life - are they just that - small? What small things in life might you consider sacred? Or do you just think small things don't matter and the word sacred just does not fit? I'd love to know what you think.

Photo - Toupee Man #1 of 3 in SS Triptych

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  1. Ordinary. I had a friend in high school who was terrified of being ordinary. I don't think she was unusual, in fact I think that is a very ordinary fear, especially among young people. I know it took me many years to discover the blessed uniqueness of each and every person, including me of all people. So here is to the ordinary. It is so extraordinary.

  2. I was thinking just today about what's sacred. NPR reported people's objections to stylized versions of the National Anthem, claiming it was sacred and shouldn't be changed. I don't like the stylization usually, but I wouldn't say the song was sacred.

    I remember a deacon who looked over a list of songs to be played at church by a violinist, checking to see if the music was not heathen and sacred enough for that venue (to the great consternation of the performer.)

    One of the items on a spiritual assessment is to try to understand the other person's sense of the sacred. What makes us bow our heads, take off our shoes, or what ever metaphor we'd care to use for the reverence we feel?

    As for ordinariness, I have learned to appreciate it. There was a line in Every Man's Way of the Cross that sticks out in my mind, not the exact words but the meaning. "Every time I wash a dish...." That was my first encounter with the sacredness of the ordinary.

  3. To who's glory do we work?
    For who's glory do we exist?
    I have taken a simple solution, God is everywhere,
    God is!
    In all that meets us daily, the challenge is to be present, to be the presence of creation listening for God's footsteps in the garden. To recognize the presence of creation around us, also struggling to hear the footsteps of God walking through the garden.
    In this context ordinary translates to sacred and sacred translates to ordinary. When we accept that our animation has the ability to be the grace of God present to the rest of creation and the gifts of creation, our every action is transformed. In this transformation we find the freedom of honesty, of truth, of service of God, as we are created, naked, without adornment, free to respond without judgment. All the small things become large as we administer the sacrament of our care and service, touch and thought. Size and measurement fail as we realize that the very experience of God surrounds us, and all becomes sacred.

  4. All those small moments of life are building bricks, and although we can't dictate the end result, we can influence the shape of the life we are building. Maybe the home of our soul can be a little bit more beautiful if we reflect on the small bricks as well as the cornerstones.

  5. CP - thought you might agree that ordinary is extraordinary - absolutely!

    Wren - I'm so happy to see you here today. I miss your blogging and commenting as well. I heard that NPR review of the National Anthem issue and I think I wasn't totally grasped by the subject and lost it somewhere in my head. Finding what is sacred to one versus non-sacred can be a daunting task, I believe, if we are indeed placed in the position of discernment for someone else. Although I believe all breath and life is sacred, thereby moment to moment, when it gets down to the nitty-gritty of the National Anthem being sacred, I would probably bail out (again) on the subject allowing the person feeling such a strong connection their right to the sacred and I would not want to antagonize or criticise them for that feeling of holiness. It's still about the washed dish, the made bed, the caring meal, the love of neighbor, moment to moment sacredness for me.

    Bruno - Such a beautiful response you've laid out for me and for my readers as well. Thank you so much - I am right there with you in believing we are here by and for the grace of God and that seeing God everywhere is not difficult for me. My goal ultimately is for God's presence to be seen as a part of my presence with others. What I can achieve and what I pray to achieve may be far apart but reaching for that goal is important to me. Thank you again!

    Tess - the small bricks as well as the cornerstones - AMEN! The cornerstones are there for a reason as are the small bricks depending upon the foundation for their being. ALways wonderful to see your name come up in my comments section!

    Thanks again to all of you for your thoughtful responses!

  6. a great post followed by great comments. here is a quote i saw today that resonated deeply with me and i thought of again when i read the words here:

    "Remember always that you have not only the right to be an individual; you have an obligation to be one."
    -- Eleanor Roosevelt

    if we fulfill our "obligation" as eleanor suggests, i think that moves us right out ordinary and into extraordinary.

    one of the most sacred things i did yesterday was to lovingly set the table for those who i was going to dine with. as i rolled the napkins and silverware, i considered each individual and viewed my gesture as an act of love. while i did not verbally share this with anyone (until now), it was a vision that stayed with me into the next day. it was also amidst many other events that could have been viewed as much more extraordinary.

    is there anything ordinary? only if we allow it to be so.

  7. lucy is sooooo correct: anything can be extraordinary and, as we say in my tradition, a sacramental, if done with love. Hospitality has a long tradition of being sacred in the Benedictine approach to spirituality and one reason I have taken in a few strays in my time. There is the something of the Divine in the re-organizing and discarding as I make room for the latest two in my apartment. His appreciating the inherent goodness and holiness in the everyday is one reason I so liked Moore's book.

  8. "Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back
    and realize they were the big things."
    -Robert Brault
    Nothing is ordinary...just breathing is a miracle.

  9. Oh my goodness, I feel so blessed to have had such wonderful responses to this post.

    Lucy, Eleanor Roosevelt's quote has gone into one of my little books of such quotes and I agree with the setting of the table for guests or even for me and an my spouse. It's necessary but more than that - it is a gift to the other persons of my care for them. When entertaining, I often enjoy the table setting more than any of the other prep categories.

    Barbara, Benedictine ways seem to be poking up around me these days and I'm so happy to see your words about them here. I'm glad you've read the Moore book which I referenced.

    Marjean, I so agree with the little things often turning out to be the very biggest of all.....breathing is such a miracle . Seems strange to openly talk about such a "habit" as miraculous but it is indeed a miracle, the breath of life.

    THanks again to all of you.