I was reading in Third Way (Mar 2008) of John Davies who made a modern pilgrimage along the M62, wanting to learn to 'read the ordinary':

I have felt for some time that the everyday gets overlooked in society's constant attentiveness to the new and the exotic, whilst all of us for most of the time are living ordinarily.

More and more I find myself agreeing with this. I can trace a few sources of this feeling:

  • I'm annoyed that the news spends ever more time on the lives of celebrities;
  • I realise I'm more keen on the newest gizmos, gadgets and software than can be good for my ability to just get things done;
  • As I tend to everything slightly early in life, it's probably about time I started my mid-life crisis. Or, at least, I'm concluding that I'm not going to be able to realise some of my ideas in life;
  • I'm unlikely to go far out of my way to collect exotic experiences, and in many ways I'm content with the ordinary.

Unsurprising then, that I found his quote from Georges Perec powerful and provocative:

The daily newspapers talk of everything expect the daily. The papers annoy me, they teach me nothing. What they recount doesn't concern me, doesn't ask me questions and doesn't answer the questions I would like to ask. What's really going on, what we're experiencing, the rest, all the rest, where is it? How should we take account of, question, describe what happens every day and recurs everyday: the banal, the quotidian, the obvious, the common, the ordinary, the infra-ordinary, the background noise, the habitual? [From Approaches to What?]

I don't think I'm likely to walk along the M62, but the challenge is there to find the 'subliminal amongst the liminal' of life in ordinary. Obviously for Christians, this includes noticing God's hand at work. Greenbelt had this theme once, and that year I was struck by the question of how we can find God in our towns and cities ... most of us find him easier to see in what we long have held to be 'the works of his creation' - but what about in the local council, or (a real challenge) Tescos?

AuthorJonathan Clark