A Case for Making the Ordinary Extraordinary
“The heaventree of stars hung with humid nightblue fruit.”- James Joyce
In February 1922 in Paris Sylvia Beach published James Joyce’s epic tome, Ulysses. Joyce’s notoriously erudite masterpiece is, despite being over 1000 pages long, set over over a period of just 24 hours. It is the very ordinary story of a small group of very ordinary Dubliners going about a very ordinary day.
That day is June 16th, a day that has become an emblematic annual celebration by fans of the book and is affectionately known as Bloomsday (after the story’s main protagonist, Leopold Bloom). Joyceans from all over the world celebrate by dressing up as a character from the novel, read passages aloud, act out their favourite scenes etc. For those fans June 16th is a very extraordinary day.
But Ulysses could have been set on any day and that is the remarkable trait of the book. Every ordinary action is described and treated with such detail, attention, beauty, and honesty that it becomes extraordinary. From frying kidneys to getting drunk in a bar, every standard quotidian event is given a special tinge; after all, Joyce knew as well as anyone that no two experiences are alike, that every sensory reaction is unique and evanescent … as is every day.
It’s hard not to get caught up in the monotony of routine and to think of day-to-day chores as being repetitive and stale; but of course, if you think about it, they’re not. Given the near-infinite number of variables that could occur in any given scenario, every event experienced is in fact happening for the first time ever. We all too often ignore the details and focus on the familiar, but if you pay attention there’s always something new and extraordinary going on around you.
Published: June 17th, 2014