(Un)thinking the Ordinary

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The ordinary is not innocent. The notion of ordinary stays away from rivalry and competition with other similar states of affairs. It is accepted as the minimum that we require. It is thought to be the other of extraordinary. But deep scrutiny reveals that there is no wall of separation between the ordinary and extraordinary. The ordinary is extraordinary. It carries a sense of completion. It makes us think that things fit into the schemes of things. Ordinary appears to us as self-evident and stays beyond any interrogation. It consists of our habitual world. The ordinary introduces a kind of blindness and we mindlessly offer our assent to it. It brings in minimalist thinking that aborts several alternatives. We think that everything being ordinary is in its right place and the right time.

The ordinary leans heavily on teleology. What is thought to be extraordinary is out of place and out of time. We can think that the ordinary is out of the ordinary. In fact, there are people who have touched greatness by doing the ordinary and the everyday mundane. Repeating the ordinary consistently, some men and women have reached greatness. But we also have the drive to avoid the ordinary and live a quest for the extraordinary. There are several who think that the ordinary is a wasteland and want to move to what they consider greener pastures.

The ordinary has the power to keep the status quo. It keeps the boat safe at its anchor in the harbour. Nietzsche has rightly said, ‘wasteland grows’. The ordinary has great power over our life. It ties us down and stifles novelty, progress as well as regress. Sometimes we love to anchor our life in the ordinary. The ordinary produces our life. It chains us to the mediocrity of life. We seem to stick to the ordinary under the threat of castration or under the fear of loss of comfort of the ordinary that the extraordinary may introduce in our life. Our attraction to the ordinary appears to be the consequence of the Oedipal drama. This is why the unremarkable and the ordinary continue to have their sway over us while we resist the sight of the other, the extraordinary.

Thinking with Jacques Derrida opens us possibilities of interrogating the ordinary. The ordinary excludes several other states of affairs. It eliminates the other alternatives. We Oedipalize and seek the security of the ordinary. We cannot face alterity or otherness and see the comfort of familiarity or sameness as the be-all and the end-all of life. The strange and the other alienates us and we seek the comfort of being at home with the ordinary. The ordinary, therefore, belongs to the closed horizon that closes us while the openness to the other belongs to the absolute horizon that remains always open to the coming of the other who remains in the coming. The ordinary in some way invisibilizes that it has become what it is by displacing and replacing every other alternative that is capable of coming in its place. The ordinary therefore is profoundly political. It is our fear of the unknown or the other that gives it its political teeth.

Our thinking thinks the thought and the familiar. We cannot think the unthought. The deconstruction of the ordinary has to begin with what Heidegger calls thinking the unthought. The growing power of thinking the same keeps us stuck with the politics of the status quo and we embrace the ordinary as the oxygen of our life. We have no ear for the unfamiliar or the other as we are glued to the touch of the ordinary. Hence, we have the challenge to remain open to the coming of the other, the unknown and the unfamiliar. It is with the opening of ourselves to the absolute horizon that we are enabled to derail the politics of the ordinary that will simultaneously dismantle the reign of the familiar while it opens us to welcome and be at home with the arriving other. It is in the unexpected and the discovery that we can truly live as humans in our world. It is the unfamiliar and the unknown that opens us challenging possibilities of being in the world.

This means we have the challenge to overcome our mad love for the same. It is in our embracing of the other that we can truly discover ourselves and transform ourselves and the world that we cohabit with other humans and life in general. It is on the horizon of the other that we become ourselves. The horizon of the same can and does abort our uniqueness and curtails our possibilities of being in the world. The horizon of the other gets the best out of us. While the horizon the same enslaves us as we hop at the same spot to cement the politics of status quo unleashed by the reign of the ordinary. It is only by transcending the closed horizon that we can enter the open horizon.

Standing in the open horizon will open us and draw the best out of us and other human beings. The open horizon will enable us to overcome our blindness and enable us to contest the politics that masks the ordinary as apolitical and innocent. Unmasking the political mask of the ordinary, we will get eyes to see, ears to hear and touch to feel how it closes our possibilities and opportunities of being in the world. Thus, unthinking the ordinary, we will see how the ordinary is really extraordinary that plugs away several other competing states of affairs that can occupy therir place. Unthinking of the ordinary makes way for the other states of affairs to come and thus open us other ways of being human in the world.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao