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Thursday, 31 January 2013


Another birthday guest post, this time from Harv ...

In an age when we’re all looking for the spectacular, seeking the next big thrill or the next brush with celebrity, and accumulating a list of experiences to the tick off from the list (been there, done that, got the mobile phone pic), it’s all too easy to overlook the mundane, the quotidian, the ordinary.

In the Christian calendar ‘ordinary time’ is the time when there are no big festivals or celebrations, a season of quiet growth and maturing.

And a dictionary might tell you that the ‘mundane’ is the opposite of ‘spiritual’. But that just might not be the case. If perhaps the two are not incompatible, but two sides of the same coin, we need to find ways to glimpse heaven in our daily work, rest and play, to be attentive for clues of redemption, rumours of glory, and signs of heaven touching earth. Where ordinary becomes extraordinary.

In the words of William Blake:
To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.

Or “heaven in ordinary” as George Herbert wrote.

And ordinary people, living ordinary lives, in ordinary days, make a difference. In 1937 a letter placed in the New Statesman invited people to join a project of ‘anthropology at home’, asking them watch and study ‘the behaviour of people at war memorials, shouts and gestures of motorists, anthropology of football pools, beards, armpits, eyebrows and female taboos about eating’. The organisation ‘Mass Observation’ was born, recording everyday life in Britain and challenging the notion that history consists solely of the lives of great men.

From these tales of regular folk to the birth of a boy to a carpenter in a town in the middle of nowhere, history has changed through the sum-total of ordinary people’s actions.

Yesterday I finished reading Middlemarch. The last paragraph echoes the same sentiment: ‘for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs’.

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