“it’s not the large things that
send a man to the
madhouse…it’s the continuing series of small tragedies…a shoelace that snaps
with no time left …
The dread of life
is that swarm of trivialities
that can kill quicker than cancer
and which are always there”
- Charles Bukowski
How do we give dignity to the ordinariness of everyday living? How do we elevate the mundane to something more meaningful, something that rather than being dull and indifferent, in fact, might sparkle and shine?
Bukowski’s laments tragedy of the trivial, but just as he does in the writing of the poem, there is perhaps some way to make of art of these ordinary acts of living. Filling out taxes. Drying yourself after a shower. Making your lunch. Starting the car. And of course…tying your shoelaces.
The act of attention, which we might refer to as the art of attention is the determining factor. How do we behold our everyday moments? What is the quality of attention we give to chopping vegetables, waking up, buying groceries, talking on the phone, or putting out the bins?
If it is the beholder that creates beauty, then the same goes for reverence, wonder, and awe. Rilke writes: “If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches; for the Creator, there is no poverty.”
What determines the quality of these experiences is the experiencer. Perception is a creative act. It is the attention we give that will determine how alive, interesting or engaging any experience will be. Might we say that attention, deep attending, is in essence an act of care? To really attend, to know in this way, is an act of love. Careful attention alights and gives life to whatever it rests upon.