On appreciating the ordinary
Cutting through the delusion of duality.
I read something this past week that brought my attention to the meaning of appreciation. In this Fall’s Parabola, writer Mark Nepo, in an article titled Returning to the Center, described appreciation as moving toward what is precious. Concluding that by learning to appreciate life in its entirety, we can find our way back home to the things that we deem intrinsically precious or see the preciousness in everything.
But preciousness often is one-sided. What we think is precious reminds us of comfort, familiarity, or safety — and the opposite is usually sent to exile and immediately polarized. The one-sided appreciation enacts a duality that builds walls between us and them — us and the rest of the world. Through language and intellect, labels are created, hate is spewed, and discrimination unfolds — all in the name of appreciating one thing over another.
Through the senses, appreciation is made possible. The eyes, nose, tongue, ears, and mind — all work in unison to cast stories — however, those stories often provide narrow and skewed assumptions of the world.
Failing to appreciate, even the ordinary, or the different, produce a by-product of atrophied senses that sever the potential of wisdom and compassion and dangerously stun the ability to appreciate fully.
As much as the media, politics, and culture fight to obtain our allyship — genuine and wholesome appreciation happens with the ability to appreciate the preciousness of even the repulsive or tainted.
The Zen monk, Shunryu Suzuki (1904-1971), said something along the lines of “learn to enjoy your problems,” which can be translated to “learn to appreciate your problems, to see the absurdity of the situation, and the glimmer of preciousness that is nested even among the inconvenient.”
When appreciation is only reserved for the pleasant, beautiful, and “worthy,” a slew of wonder and surprise is left on the table.
So the challenge from this inquiry into the meaning of appreciation is how to cultivate an appreciation rooted in fact versus fiction. Fiction is the jaded conditioning that presents itself as reserved, curated, and high-brow. Whereas fact is standing in the rain with no umbrella, an anxious mind, butterflies in the belly, a misaligned frame, and fragrant blossoms — everything.
How can autonomy be regained without relying on external influences and idiot boxes, and how can we resolve to a collective conclusion that there is preciousness in everything? And how can we abandon the habit of cherry-picking and instead expand our depth of field to include more rather than less and learn to appreciate the flat tires and traffic jams? How can the notion of appreciation not just be for what is favorable and tolerable but also belong to what is not?
Beginner’s Mind | A Playlist
Following the Beginner’s Mind playlist below on Spotify, every issue will be updated with new music. I’ve also added the titles of the songs below. This issue’s playlist is best when played from beginning to end.
Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) Darlene Love
Anna (Go To Him) Arthur Alexander
A Fool Such As I Slim Whitman
Heart Rita Pavone
I’m Gonna Love You Just A Little More Baby Barry White
Within You Without You O/Modernt Chamber Orchestra