What does it mean to find the extraordinary within the ordinary?
One of my favorite quotes is by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (author of The Little Prince, among others), where he says: “A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.”
Are you someone who sees rock piles, or do you see cathedrals?
To find the extraordinary within the ordinary, you have to see it. And to see it, you have to look for it. And to look for it, you have to have your eyes open. You have to be open. You have to believe that within every rock pile there is a cathedral. Or, at least, the possibility of one.
Or, put this way, as Hamlet said “there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.”
Let’s back up.
Think about your life, and the things contained within it. Let you mind roam across the landscape of your days… the people, the tasks, the places, the hopes and dreams, the fears.
How often do you sit in wonder at what’s extraordinary in all of it?
I believe that everything can start to look like a simple pile of rocks, if we’re not careful. And the trick there is that rocks are not bad, necessarily. A life filled with piles of rocks can be quite nice. Perfectly comfortable. Just fine. It’s just…DON’T GET LOST IN A LIFE FILLED WITH FINE.
How many cathedrals might you be missing out on if you just settle on the fine rocks and leave it at that?
So, look again.
It’s up to you to put some extra in the ordinary of your every day.
Where to start? Well… where are the places where you currently only see rocks? What are the rocks?
Here’s something I’ve come to realize. Actually two things. First, this is not something you figure out and then never look back—this is something that needs reminding. A lot of reminding. And second, cathedrals aren’t just big things. Extraordinary can happen in a breath; in a look.
For example, just last week I was cooking dinner and my five-year-old son Dylan was acting out in a steady and increasing stream of what we’ll call… unproductive behaviors and challenged listening. And I was cooking dinner and I was tossing an equally steady and increasing stream of “nos” and “don’ts” and “Dylan!!’s” at him, until he finally just said “STOP IT, Mommy. You are being SO rude to me!” And I looked over, and saw his face flushed and frustrated and his eyes brimming with tears.
And in that moment I did stop. And I put one of his favorite songs on, scooped him up, and started dancing around the kitchen. And he quickly melted into my arms and buried his face into my shoulder like a baby. And when he looked at me again, it was with such love and connection. And it hit me like a jolt of electricity. He had needed me to see the cathedral within him, and all I was doing was treating him like a pile of rocks.
Extraordinary can happen in a breath. In a look.
You just have to actively and intentionally look for it.
How can you find the extra in your ordinary today?
For breakfast, I had coffee, an omelet, some home fries, and bacon. Mmm… breakfast with friends.
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