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An ordinary life?

When the mundane and routine press upon you, there's a way to find light.

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This summer the exhibits of two artists – Edward Hopper at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and Camille Pissaro at the Milwaukee Art Museum – held a message that spoke to my heart.

The audio commentary giving background on the Pissaro exhibit described his work as depicting "the eloquence of the ordinary." The commentary on Hopper's paintings said his work was "illuminating the quiet drama of ordinary moments."

Hearing these comments only a few weeks apart in two different exhibitions caught my attention. The expression, "another day, another dollar," can characterize the attitude many people have toward their lives, no matter how mundane or high-powered their work may be.

From changing diapers to boarding one more airline flight, daily activities can be so repetitious that it's hard to feel inspired by them – to see the "eloquence of the ordinary." How do we stop this from happening? Enriching activities on the weekends and vacations can help. But is there a way to illuminate our own ordinary moments?

Two elements that transform the ordinary in art are light and color. There's also a divine light that can illumine our ordinary moments. I love a statement in a poem by Mary Baker Eddy that describes God as "Life divine, that owns each waiting hour" ("Poems," p. 4).

Knowing that divine Life "owns" each hour ahead of us can have a lot to do with the way we live each moment. Letting this divine influence hold our moments reveals beauty and love in the ordinary. It can bring a spark to the day, even to routine activities. It can transform the ordinary in an immediate and lasting way.

But getting caught up in the "everydayness" of things hides this light, as C.S. Lewis brings out in "The Screwtape Letters." The book presents a perspective on evil through the correspondence of a personified devil figure with his novice demon nephew. In the devil's instruction on how to corrupt a particular individual, he counseled his nephew, "Keep pressing home on him the ordinariness of things" – a bus passing by, the need for lunch – in order to keep him from thinking too deeply about reality.


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