By the numbers, I am an ordinary guy.
I have lived all my life in the mid-West, in mid-range population centers like Boise, Idaho or Salt Lake City.
My parents were middle class and worked hard to keep our average-sized family of four safe and happy. I went to the local state school and enjoyed the experiences most of my peers of my same age enjoyed. Out of college, I got a job as a mid-level professional, working as an engineer to make a middle-class salary.
I got married, divorced, and remarried. (My wife is the most extraordinary woman, the exception to my narrative thus far.) She speaks two languages fluently, I only speak one. She quit her job to become a world-recognized non-profit executive serving forcibly displaced women, I work in the back office, making sure the web page works.
I interviewed, was hired, laid off, rehired, and made it all the way to middle-management before being demoted. I changed careers after twenty years, a mid-level professional, product manager for a mid-sized firm.
I’m now middle-aged, mildly overweight, and—when asked—doing just fine. I’m average in most every way.
Middle of the road.
Mediocre. Mild. Miltose.
Like most of everyone else.
At least that is what the numbers say.
But my side of experience is illuminated. Anything but ordinary.
Being consciousness, realizing my own headlessness, I am surrounded by mystery and paradox. Examining this formless space is a permanent playground, a literal subjective laboratory all my own.
Eyes closed: sensations are a new cloud of pressure or tingling that aren’t arm or cramp; sounds aren’t traffic or house settling but uncontrollable entreaties on silence; and my visual field can be a chasm or rich with read-in imaginings.
Eyes open: I am a space for things and the myriad creatures, a translation of reality into my experience, all interfering in my mind but effortlessly so.
Being consciousness, realizing my own headlessness, I am surrounded by mystery and paradox.
As if that were not enough, I have conceptual markers on many of the concrete entities in this space (sun, stars, rocks, brains, genes) and much that is abstract (energy, spacetime, materialism, mind, and culture). I think at the boundaries of the many-worlds and am home in time for dinner.
I can debate both sides of modern events, model potential outcomes for their impact, and resolve a worldview—all without making a peep! Science guides a view of reality that labels things, ideas, and processes with the knowledge passed down not only from our shared efforts to understand, but also from a universe whose mechanisms and mysteries are actually discoverable and to an extent malleable to technologies we construct.
This illumination of the ordinary is not just about me, but also about my relations with others. Leading an examined life is not only or even mostly a quest to discover one’s self (or selflessness), but instead how our shared humanity is created in the context of illuminating ordinary relationships.
Have you ever wondered how love differs from affection or just acknowledgement? Might it be in the space we make for the whole of the other person within ourselves? The attempts we make to understand experience from behind their face? A communion of how we think and feel when in one another’s company (as if we were at one)?
Leading an examined life is not only or even mostly a quest to discover one’s self (or selflessness), but instead how our shared humanity is created in the context of illuminating ordinary relationships.
And so it is with my relationship with our human culture, what I hope to create and how I hope to be in relation with posterity. An ordinary relationship—a natural one anyway—would be dictated by my genetics and their kin-selected means of propagation. The algorithm of selection has methodically increased the diversity of the myriad creatures and our experience is more interesting because of it.
However, given a single human life and not eons of slow-moving genetic drift, desiring an impact on more than a few random genes but on the outlook of people present and future, I have to untether from an ordinary relationship with human culture in an attempt to endear one and all to their illuminating birthright, no matter how ordinary they may think themselves to be.