Monday, October 17, 2011

The Extraordinary in Ordinary

There is something light and refreshing about doing small, pointless tasks in life, for example, sweeping dead leaves off an outdoor area in Autumn when you know that the area will be covered again within a day, if not less.
I felt sad and depleted this weekend, Saturday afternoon and most of the Sunday, and I felt such a loss of energy last night that I had to drag myself everywhere. Today started late, around noon, but I had energy to do things, work-related and stuff around the house, and I realized how beautiful it is to be able to do small, pointless chores. There is extra-ordinary in the ordinary as the following quotes from ``Writing Down the Bones,'' by Natalie Goldberg, show so elegantly:

I looked and looked in wonder. ``How could I every write about these vast expanses and mythic rituals?'' ... We think of detail as small, not the realm of the cosmic mind or these big hills of New Mexico. That isn't true. No Matter how large a thing is, how fantastic, it is also ordinary. We think of details as daily and mundane. Even miracles are mundane happenings that an awakened mind can see in a fantastic way.

So it is not merely a materialistic handling of objects that is the base for writing, but using details to step through to the other side---to the vast emptiness behind it all. ....

Original details are very ordinary, except to the mind that sees their extra-ordinariness. It's not that we need to go to the Hopi mesas to see greatness; we need to view what we already have in a different way. It is very deep for the Hopis to have a snake dance, but it is also one of their festivals that has been performed every other year for their whole lives. ... If we see their lives and festivals as fantastic and our lives as ordinary, we come to writing with a sense of poverty. We must remember that everything is ordinary and extraordinary. It is our mind that either open or close ...

The snake dance was made up of detail after detail with extreme concentration; it had to be that way---the snakes were in the Hopis' mouths. We who watched thought it was unfathomable and fantastic because it was new and foreign. It was also ordinary and had been done for hundreds of years. In order to write about it, we have to go to the heart of it and know it, so the ordinary and extraordinary flash before our eyes simultaneously. Go so deep into something that you understand its interpenetration with all things. Then automatically the detail is imbued with the cosmic; they are interchangeable.

... We are all interwoven and create each other's universe. When one person dies out of his time, it affects us all. We don't live for ourselves; we are interconnected. ... We have a responsibility to treat ourselves kindly; then we all treat the world in the same way.

This understanding is how we should come to writing. Then we can handle details not as individual, material objects alone but as reflections of everything. ... Understand that when we write about a cup or a mesa or the sky or a bobby pin, we must give them good attention and penetrate into their heart. Doing this, we all naturally make those leaps that poetry talks about, because we are aware of the interconnection of all things.  ---pp. 95-98, Writing Down the Bones

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