Living in ordinary time.

March 5, 2017 § 4 Comments

img_7303_edited-1“I have measured out my life with coffee spoons”

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

T.S. Eliot


“Ordinary time” is a liturgical term for the seasons between the church’s designated periods of penitence or rejoicing.

Ordinary time: when the faithful practice their faith with no added fervor, self-scrutiny, or elevated purpose.

In borrowing the term I take it out of its religious context and apply it to life—and by that I mean, not Life, but life in the lower case. Lower case life is where we spend most of our time.

Extraordinary time, that is Life, is when we make those bursts of flight that give loft to every life: falling in love, having a child, earning a degree, receiving an award, bowling 300.

Ordinary time does not leave a trail of shiny objects we have to dust, letters appended to our names, a credit scrolling on a wide screen.

Those are cairns that sit solemn in the grass while the world goes about its ordinary business.

Ordinary time passes without fanfare. It minds its own business.

J. Alfred Prufrock laments that he has measured his life with coffee spoons. In a sense we all do.

Extraordinary time is a bright, but brief burst.

Ordinary time is marked by repetition and duration. It accrues so quietly we rarely bother to measure it.

After all, there is nothing memorable about it, but the units of measure are not abstract like the time kept by clocks and calendars.

img_7075Here are some measures of ordinary time.

The diminishing of a roll of toilet paper.

The life cycle of a pair of socks, worn to dirty, washed and worn and washed again until the wearer’s toes bloom through the holes.

Miles driven to and from work, pages read and turned, the washing of the same plate, the phone call made home every night, the garden planted season after season.


We yearn for the adrenaline rush of the extraordinary, but, I think, that as time runs out, what we will wish for most is just one more cup of coffee in that same-as-always cup, one more chat about nothing with a neighbor, one more time of lacing up that comfortable, broken-in pair of boots.

A little more ordinary time.

Note: Here is a like to T.S. Eliot’s full poem.

Note 2: Perhaps the love of repetition and the familiar is a trait of age. Perhaps ordinary time is most appreciated by those who have celebrated–and survived extraordinary times.

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§ 4 Responses to Living in ordinary time.

  • craig reeder says:

    Eckhart Tolle would agree with you totally about the nature of time. He said: “The only thing that is ultimately real about your journey is the step that you are taking at this moment. That’s all there ever is.” Then again, he also said this: “I have lived with several zen masters — all of them cats.”

    Liked by 1 person

  • KM Huber says:

    I often wonder about the extraordinary of the ordinary. I suppose that’s the Zen in me. Or as you offer, the age in me. But the longer I live, the more extraordinary I find every moment, offering me so much if I will just stay with the experience of it, that one moment and no other. Then, it is all I could want or need, and it is what I have. Wonderful post, Adrian.



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