So I have been wanting to write about ordinary for awhile now, but I just couldn’t figure out what to put on paper, so I didn’t. I have so much in my mind that I just can’t seem to put it into a neat little package to put on a page so I procrastinate and don’t get anything down. What a waste. Anyway, I have come to realize that I am very ordinary, and I am pretty excited about that……no, really, I am. Let me tell you why.
The truth is that most of my life on some level I have been angry. Angry about something, but mostly angry about what I felt were the injustices of the world, i.e. abused children, abused women, abused animals, unjust anything, politics, religion, hypocrisy (what I deemed), just anything that didn’t seem right, that looked bad, that I felt was wrong. I was angry about it, and by god, I was going to change things for the better. I was going to right the wrongs of the world, make people see just how wrong they were. I would get in your face and tell you about it. I would scream it from the mountaintops. I would march on your street. I would call the police on you. I would do something to you out of revenge if I felt you deserved it (to make a point of course), so then you would see your wrong ways and change and then the world would be a better place, and daisies would grow on every street corner and the world would be a happy place, and there would be no suffering because of my actions…..YEAH FOR ME!!!! I had a cause, many causes. I belonged to PETA. I belonged to environmental groups, food groups. I counseled women on domestic violence. I marched against Monsanto. I bought lobsters and set them free. I marched for gay rights. I was disgusted by men who didn’t treat women properly or their children properly, and I didn’t mind at all to tell you about it either. I can’t tell you how many petitions I signed to ban guns, hunting, free the children, save the farms, etc. etc. etc. You pick a topic, and I would march, scream, sign, rant, rave, make posters, jump up and down, whatever. I would do it. I thought this was making a difference somehow. Somehow if I just kept on doing these things, one day a miracle would happen. The skies would open up and take all the bad people out and only leave good, peaceful, tree-hugging, animal-loving, children-loving, free-loving people in the world, and we would skip merrily down the path of life with flowers in our hair and sing happy songs while our children only ate healthy grains with no chemicals that we grew ourselves. I even contemplated moving out of town and building a house constructed out of hay with no electricity and growing my own food on a commune. Actually, wait a minute. That still sounds good….but I digress!
But wait there is more….I was also the person that would flip you off for cutting me off in traffic or get frustrated because you didn’t move fast enough for ME. I had this superiority complex that makes me ill when I think about how I used to act all the time. Here I was being my big old activist self touting all this stuff about injustice and the wrongs of the world, but I wasn’t peaceful enough myself not to judge others or have the patience to sit in a line. Talk about a hypocrite.
You see my anger fueled me. It made me move forward. It gave me reason, reason for anything “I” felt. I wanted peace for the world, but I was one of the most unpeaceful people I had ever known. All I would dream about was being able to escape this life and go live alone in a cave in Tibet somewhere and meditate. I was so miserable and unhappy I couldn’t even meditate in my own home in front of my own altar. But yet somehow I felt I knew what was right for everyone else. I thought I was unique, special, different, justified. I had up so many barriers and walls, no one could get in…not you, not another opinion, not another viewpoint…nothing. I was right. You were wrong, and I was going to make you see that. In other words, I was not changing a thing. I was the problem. And then…..
I found out I was ordinary. Being an activist for anything I thought was where it was at. I thought this would make a difference, but the truth is that no matter how much I tried, there was still the same stuff going on. There was still suffering in the world. There was no more peace because of the “activist” stuff I had done. There were still abuses of all different kinds. The only real thing I succeeded in doing was to alienate people, make opposites, see subject and object….not be peaceful at all.
I had no idea that the exact opposite of activism was the way to go; that this truly could affect change. I had no idea that changing myself could then change the world one person at a time. But it seemed so ordinary, right? Change me and that could change the world????? What you say? Well, let me tell you how it works, and keep in mind I am just at the very beginning, just a novice, but it is possible. We never know how we can affect someone, but it has to start with me. If I am peaceful in my own skin and I am peaceful and mindful in my own home, then my partner gets the benefit of my peace and so do my children. It might impact their day just enough that they find some peace and go about their day and do something nice for someone they come in contact with. They might not react to a situation with anger. Instead they might open the door for a stranger. They might help an elderly person in the grocery store get something off a shelf that they can’t reach. They might help a student with their homework. They might give someone a hug that needs it or listen to a friend without thinking of themselves first. They might buy a sandwich for a homeless person or give their pretzels to the man on the corner who is asking for food to the cars that pass by or it might be as simple as smiling to someone who needs it. That potential, that possibility is always there if I am peaceful and it starts from me, every day. THAT IS A LOT OF CHANGE! Who knows what all those little possibilities could do. It may pay forward. If you really look deeply into what that could potentially mean just in one little community in East Tennessee, what could that mean for the world? One never knows. What if that student that needed a smile or a hug was thinking of doing something terrible, and they didn’t do it because they realized someone cared? What if that homeless guy was going to die from starvation today had it not been for the pretzels? What if something as simple as acknowledging someone else’s importance in the world gave them the courage to change their life? And so on, and so on.
It has to start with me. It has to. I can affect change in little ways and big ways and some ways I may never know, but if I don’t change and be the peace I so desperately want for the world, then what will happen? No amount of activism in the world can change as much as I can change myself. Then that will change my family, my neighborhood, my community, my state, my country, the world….paying it forward to bigger and better things. If I can’t do that in my own life with my own family and community, then how can I expect to change the world?
It’s the ordinary things in life that are extraordinary. It’s the awareness of every single thing that is precious and not so precious. Not taking things for granted, acknowledging just how amazing everything around me is. I mean, I am typing words on a machine right now that will eventually go out into the world. I am in a house that was constructed a long time ago by old trees that maybe someone planted centuries ago, and maybe his planting of the trees that made this house was the way he fed his family and survived. The table that this machine is setting on was made from metal that was formed and put together by someone who has that as a job that feeds their family. Everything is special in it’s ordinariness. So imagine how extraordinary people are. When I change myself and work on myself to become peaceful, not angry, not judgmental, not an activist, then the whole world can change. Imagine if everyone had this mindset what a different world this could be, but it has to start with me, my ordinary, extraordinary, non-activist self. The angry, hostile, hateful people in this world are suffering. They can change. I know. I used to be one of them.