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common wealth

October 26, 2014

There are (positive) qualities you’re supposed to wait for other people to bestow upon you. That assumes, though, that other people (1) are perceptive, (2) notice you, and (3) care about you.

First encountering the word ‘eccentric’ around age 7, I thought, “I want to be that!” As a pre-teen, I reclaimed “weird”, which was used as a slur. (I tried to rehab ‘bizarre’ the same way, but it didn’t work, so I dropped it.) I desperately sought to keep people from calling me ‘freak’.

I have a visceral horror of being ‘ordinary’.

ordinary – 3a. of common quality, rank, or ability; 3b. deficient in quality: poor, inferior.

To me, ‘ordinary’ is equivalent to dull, boring, pointless.

I want to blaze across the sky like a comet!

+++

I’ve been having trouble locating Mrs. Nocerino, after my previous posts.

She’s connected with my fear of (my own possible) ordinariness, but I don’t know how.

“How dare you think of yourself as ‘someone special’?!? Who do you think you are, missy?”

It’s not enough just to be special, though. Breaking In: The Rise of Sonia Sotomayor and the Politics of Justice, by Joan Biskupic details political maneuvering behind the scenes for judicial appointments. You have to be in the right place at the right time. Have the right background. Have powerful friends and/or allies. You have to have someone as determined as you are that you will succeed.

You can’t just be smart, talented, capable. People like that are a dime a dozen, and generally spend their lives in obscurity.

I don’t think the real problem is whatever (possibly erroneous) beliefs I have about myself. I wonder if Mrs. Nocerino’s issue isn’t more that I want to be treated by other people like I matter.

I think everybody matters, so I’m not actually looking for an unfair advantage.

+++

If everybody matters, why is ‘ordinary’ anathema?

Because ordinary is the baseline; it (usually) requires no effort.

In a certain sense, I work hard at being the person I am; I’m not coasting by on the default setting. I work hard at everything that matters to me. And this effort springs from curiosity, interest, desire for engagement in the world. An abiding determination to thrive. (The fear of ‘failing the exam’ is a completely different phenomenon, and not relevant here.)

People who only work at things that offer external rewards . . . puzzle me. I find them unsettling, and I generally don’t enjoy talking to them.

This whole train of thought is very odd. I’m not ambitious in the usual sense, but I’m very eudaimonia-oriented. And that requires pretty much constant effort. On things that no one else . . . notices? Values?

I know other people think similarly, and conduct their lives similarly, because I’ve read books by people like that. But I don’t know anybody like that.

So, to me, ‘ordinary’ denotes people who are not eudaimonia-oriented? That probably is really common, actually.

This means that my visceral distaste for ‘ordinary’ doesn’t originate from ‘thinking I’m better than everyone else’, like I was so often accused of (and I secretly feared it might be true). It comes from trying to be true to myself, as I actually am (rather than like everyone else because conformity is a virtue to some people).

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Gods, I am so sleepy, and I can’t tell if any of this makes any sense at all.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 27, 2014 00:00

    The more I think about words like “ordinary,” or “normal,” the less natural it becomes.

    • October 27, 2014 00:11

      Ugh, I am new to the smartphone world and did not mean to post quite yet. At least, not until I had the chance to amend my sentence.
      What I meant to add was, those terms would be better suited to describe an automobile, refrigerator, or any piece of equipment that is designed around performing a specific task.
      When I think of human beings in that context, I can’t help but imagine a nightmarish world of people stuffed in cubicles, or the work environment in the movie Brazil.
      Normal just isn’t natural.

      • October 27, 2014 10:03

        I agree.

        I think “normal” originally meant only the average behavior of a population; it was technical, not in any way meant to be a value judgment, never mind a moral guide to behavior.

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