(There is a) statement from the book of Ecclesiastes “There is nothing new under the sun.” And I disagree with that statement! I would say there is nothing stale under the sun, except that human beings become stale. I try not to be stale. And everything is new. No two moments are alike – and a person who thinks that two moments are alike has never truly lived.”
– Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel
How do you define an ordinary moment? A moment like all other moments. A moment not worth attending to. A moment not worth knowing more deeply than its perceived face value.
Whether out of sloth or haste (or some combination of the two) we very frequently label moments as ordinary so that we can walk past them on our way to something that seems more important.
Yet within every moment we perceive as ordinary, there is a miracle crying out to be seen. A spark of divine light waiting to be born. But unless we stop and see the potential within that moment, it will remain in the hardened shell of the ordinary. It will produce no light. It will elucidate nothing.
When a child is first born, we see that child as a miracle. We are so overjoyed by this remarkable gift of life that we weep tears of profound joy. We weep at the raw, unfiltered experience of life’s essential, fragile beauty. We weep life’s miraculous capacity to give breath to the new in the form of this person who now belongs to us, heart and soul.
But then that child grows up. And they throw their dirty socks on the floor. And they listen to their music too loudly. And they forget that it’s their job to walk the dog. And they ask for $5 for a field trip that they are going on that very morning – when we only have $3.25 in our wallets (“I told you about it last week!” they insist, “I KNOW that I told you!”). We roll our eyes at that child and sigh with exasperation as we dig through the spare change in our car, looking for the remaining $1.75.
We no longer see the child as a miracle walking in our midst. Has their miraculous nature worn off day by day, like a layer of varnish that dulls over time? Or is it us? Have we become so accustomed to seeing a living breathing miracle walking and talking in our homes that we fail to see it as such. Has the child stopped being a miracle? Or have we become stale?
It is natural to see newborn baby is a miracle of life! But is a teenager with a serious attitude any less of a miracle?
Ask yourself this simple question: When did this child stop being miraculous? When did life stop being miraculous? Or when did my own eyesight stop being miraculous? Or when did the sun or the moon or a flower or a book or my own ability to perceive it all — when did any of it stop being miraculous?
The ordinary moments that have brought me joy are moments that I have touched my children’s heads and marveled at the masterpiece of each hair. Where I have listened to them speak and heard the music of Creation singing through each word. When I have looked into their eyes and seen the light of Life shining through them. The miraculous has cracked the hard shell of the ordinary! And its warmth brilliance melts my heart.
But this shift does not happen within the thing itself. The shift doesn’t happen within their hair or their voices or their eyes. This shift that brings on the joy happens within me!
This is the paradox of finding profound joy in the ordinary moment. Once we have experienced the miraculous nature of the ordinary moment – and the profound joy that follows in its wake – that moment no longer seems ordinary at all.
Because in truth, it never was ordinary to begin with.