It is not often, but there are times when I get this sinking feeling in my heart at the thought that maybe I’ve not fully explored all my potential, all that I’m capable of, in the finite time I’ve been given, time that is steadily ticking away into oblivion. There’s so much I want to do, but it always ends up as a sort of narrow choice that sometimes leaves me wondering at the road not taken. I’m able to rein in these thoughts though because deep inside I know that it’s alright to live an ordinary life, exploring and learning, even though barely a handful of people know I exist and see what I do.
But I must admit, in these extremely busy times the pressure can get to you. It can be especially hard on youngsters who are bound by peer influence that flits from one new thing to the other. Social media, neutral in itself, can cause some toxic need to keep up with other people whose journey, in reality, is all their own and nothing to do with our own talents and capabilities. There is absolutely no need to emulate another person, because living exactly as another person lives is a futile effort at best and so very externally focused. To make things worse, AI enabled programs ensure you only see what the software deems interesting to you, thereby isolating you from the larger more diverse world outside. As an aside, I was recently shocked at the extent of beautification the latest selfie camera software is able to wrought on our lined and careworn faces, making us decades younger in a rather unnatural manner, slicing off double chins and erasing creases. We are burrowing deeply into a world of illusion — called Maya in Sanskrit — and losing our true selves.
In this regard, I thought this article — Finding Meaning and Inspiration in the Mundane — was just the thing to read when a feeling of futility hits me occasionally. Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist refers to author Emily Esfahani Smith’s two-year-old article — You’ll Never Be Famous — And That’s O.K. — another comforting read for people like me who are just ordinary, going about our quiet ways doing our quiet things through our quiet years.
The world has grown deeply entwined and overnight sensations pop up with increasing frequency as do people who thrive on instant social updates, careful to post their busiest and most productive activities as well as their most flattering facial angles. Seeing their parents and caregivers grounded is what young kids need the most. Because of the diversity of life outside, children tend to get swallowed into the belief that they need to accomplish a whole lot to be worthy of living. Intense pressure from school and home reinforces the belief that marks-cards and keeping ahead of the competition alone define their capacity, whereas the smaller pleasures of life in actuality color in their personality and growth as an individual. We as their caregivers need to let children know that a life of dignity and thoughtfulness, however plain and ordinary, is what fills our souls with a sense of worthiness; that life is about inward exploration so that we can illuminate the world around us with our own unique light.
This is best illustrated in the poem The Mountain and the Squirrel by Ralph Waldo Emerson, one that I had learnt as a child and which has since stayed with me —
The mountain and the squirrel
Had a quarrel,
And the former called the latter
“You are doubtless very big;
But all sorts of things and weather
Must be taken in together
To make up a year
And a sphere.
And I think it no disgrace
To occupy my place.
If I’m not so large as you,
You are not so small as I,
And not half so spry:
I’ll not deny you make
A very pretty squirrel track.
Talents differ; all is well and wisely put;
If I cannot carry forests on my back,
Neither can you crack a nut.”
If you are extraordinary in all your endeavors and accomplishments, the world is indeed lucky to have you. As for me, I’m just extra ordinary and will light the world in my own small way. That doesn’t make me insignificant. I am where I need to be.