Ordinariness

Ordinary

True humility requires the courage to risk greatness.
—Bert Hellinger

Ordinariness might seem the opposite of specialness. Actually, it is almost the same thing. What they have in common is the idea that our life has a definite proper course. The idea of ordinariness is that in the cosmic plan our role is the same as most everyone else’s. It is right for us to do “what one does” and to live for no distinctive reason, without sticking out. It is wrong to pretend to be something fancy and special.

Because there is no cosmic plan, it is as impossible to be ordinary as it is to be special. No one is predestined to be a sheep. Yet we often waste a huge amount of emotional energy in trying to be ordinary, or trying to appear ordinary. That is because we are lazy and fearful. (Isn’t it interesting how often laziness drives us to take on impossible, exhausting tasks?)

We try to be ordinary when we think that living up to some idea of specialness would be too difficult. If we could be ordinary, we would not have the responsibility of living up to our potential. We feel justified in behaving badly, so long as we are stupid and unkind in common ways.

We try to be ordinary when we cannot imagine what our special role could be. We try to be ordinary when the uncertainty of the future is terrifying. “Being like everyone else” seems at least to offer the safety of a known outcome.

We may try to use Buddhism as a path to ordinariness. Becoming a monk may be a way of renouncing individuality. Relying on the vinaya (the monastic code of behavior) may be a way of avoiding decision-making and personal responsibility. Artificial humility is an all-purpose excuse not to take on any challenges.