Regaining the path to ordinary
Consider the ordinary man — I have — for I consider myself to be one.
Lately, however, I’m not so sure.
I’m beginning to think that, somehow, somewhere, I lost some of what it takes to be ordinary. Maybe I didn’t download the ordinariness updates.
But maybe I did. Maybe they came in late at night while I was sleeping or slipped in creeping?
I’m not sure, but, somehow, ordinary has been changing to something less than what ordinary has ordinarily been.
In my experience, one of the features of being ordinary is the ability to make both ordinary and extraordinary mistakes in ordinary and extraordinary ways.
I have utilized both approaches consistently over the years. Recently, I have been experiencing a reexamination of some of those early blunders. That is not a review I chose to undertake nor is it a process I can recommend.
Those reappraisals come about unannounced and, though it’s my errors and omissions that are being reviewed, I have no control over the process. That group of old gaffes, miscalculations, and boneheaded omissions previously labeled as just plain dumb are now being reclassified as more profound transgressions.
Those reviews routinely occur between 2 and 4 a.m. My attendance is required.
Is that ordinary?
I don’t know, but, even if it is, it has to stop. Somehow, I have to shut down those late-night error reclassification sessions. No good can come of it. Nothing can be done to change what has already occurred. Better to move forward, not repeating the old transgressions, and adopt a plan that promotes — if not a mistake-free path forward — one that will keep a lid on.
I think a good place to start would be with the Scout Oath: ” On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law.”
What’s the Scout Law? It’s a list of rules, the first of which is:
“Tell the truth and keep promises so people can depend on you.”
This first rule ties in neatly with Rule 8, ” Look for the bright side of life. Cheerfully do tasks that come your way. Try to help others be happy.”
Not telling lies and being dependable makes people happy. Not betraying them or engaging in hateful conduct towards them amplifies the effect.
In my view, a good mistake-minimizing plan should also incorporate Rules 6 and 10, Rule 6 is: “Treat others as you want to be treated.” It has a familiar ring, doesn’t it?
Rule 10 is: “Face difficult situations even when you feel afraid. Do what you think is right despite what others might be doing or saying.”
It’s that rule, Rule 10, that may hold the key to a resolution of the evolving enfeeblement of our ordinariness. The implication described in the rule — “despite what others might be doing or saying” — is that there are people doing and saying things they shouldn’t be doing and/or saying.
Could it be that we ordinary people haven’t changed — that we’re just as ordinary as we ever were? That the problem is we’re living in extraordinary times? Times where less-than-ordinary people are saying unordinary things and urging us to do things that are clearly not ordinary? And, in response, we’ve not been following Rule 10 as religiously as we should?
I think so.
Our ordinary way of life — that one we take for granted — is becoming less than ordinary. By listening to unordinary people and not following Rule 10, we are losing our civility and depriving ourselves of the ability to show that ordinariness is more enduring than hate.
We need to rebury those old mistakes and find a path forward, one that is civil and decent, so we can minimize future transgressions and preserve our ordinary.
Then, we will all sleep better.
Doug Pugh’s “Vignettes” runs biweekly on Tuesdays. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.