Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Everyday and the Unusual

When I say that we can find, on an everyday basis, deep significance in our work--as I did yesterday--it would seem like the argument would be better built on a foundation of everyday experience rather than exceptional circumstance.

But the question is whether that moment was specially good. Yes, it is easier to ride a bike on a balmy night than a cold, windy night with the fog starting to roll in, but there is beauty there, too, if one is inclined to look for it. I think the difference is that it is easier to see the beauty when there are no problems clouding the view. When the night is warm, it is comfortable to sit and admire the night sky. When it's cold and windy, it's not comfortable. But in the right circumstances I think everyone has had the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of a rain storm or a foggy night.

It's easier to appreciate the importance of your thesis when you are looking at the strongest points of the thesis, and everything is comfortable. But when the cold winds of doubt start to blow--whether from within yourself or from your professors or others--it's not so easy to sit and appreciate the beauty of your idea--you need, instead, to take action to support the idea, and to test it to make sure that it is really worthy of the effort you are investing in it.

It's easier, too, to appreciate beauty when it is new to us. We can become used to things. If we were forced to eat our favorite food for every meal, we would soon be sick of it. Our thesis might have seemed that much more exciting at first. Is that because, as we live with that thesis we come to see its blemishes more clearly? I think that's only part of it: we don't get sick of a food because the food has a problem, but only because we are forced to repeat the meal over and over. In a way, it may be the case that the only real difference between the everyday and the unusual, is just that: one is everyday, the other is unusual. And we respond differently to the everyday than we do to the unusual.

And if we can remember that, we can look again for the beauty that we saw before we had become jaded.

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