In Defense of Ordinariness

As a youth, I abhorred everything that seemed ordinary. I wanted only things I thought were special: love, nature, mystical experience, revolution, great art, philosophy. Abruptly, when I began to work for a living, I had a complete change of heart, and simultaneously became much more grounded and responsible. It’s not that I didn’t still appreciate the special things, but I came to a much more rounded point of view.

Ordinary life is to be treasured in its own right. I like to get up in the morning and see the sun shine. Nowadays, I even like to go to Costco with my wife — not because I like shopping, but because I love her and enjoy her enjoyment. Does this make me conservative? I don’t think so. Having an expanded capacity to appreciate the little things is a plus all around.

Now I want it all, from the extraordinary to the mundane. One of the reasons I especially like Aristotle and Brandom is that they both combine the lofty reaches with an appreciation of the ordinary. I distrust the contempt for the ordinary promulgated by contemporary figures like Badiou and at least some of the Žižekians. It seems like a strange kind of quasi-existentialist elitism. If you can’t relate to ordinary people and ordinary things, how can you be trusted to tell us how things should be for all of us?