living life artfully (issue 1)

Welcome to the inaugural issue of The Ordinary, my attempt to notice the unexpected joy, value, and rigor of ordinary things.

You’re receiving this email because you are subscribed to my previous project, Survival Aesthetics.

What you can expect from me (almost) every Friday morning:

  1. A very ordinary quote

  2. A roundup of very ordinary reads

  3. A brief and very ordinary note

  4. A very ordinary visual

- Ammar

An Ordinary Quote:

Every moment we might be doing the same things — brushing our teeth every day, combing our hair every day, cooking our dinner every day.

But that seeming repetitiveness becomes unique every day.

A kind of intimacy takes place with the daily habits that you go through and the art involved in it. That’s why it is called art in everyday life.

True Perception, Chogyam Trungpa

Some Ordinary Reads:

“The Importance of Humor” (Instagram): movement (extra)ordinaire Ido Portal describes how the more serious you get with your craft, the more important humor becomes.

“Magic Ink” (paper): Bret Victor’s classic on designing software for humans, the principles that guide good design, and why most software resembles Frankenstein.

“Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World (book): “Everyone is digging deeper into their own trench and rarely standing up to look in the next trench over, even though the solution to their problem happens to reside there.”

An Ordinary Note:

We live in the age of computers and mass media. Generations past lived in the age of television, the printing press, the steam engine, agriculture, aqueducts, written language, spoken language, daggers and spears.

Each age, when overwhelmed by technological change, pedestaled “modern life” as a savior or a devil.

Modernity is a tired idea, a false villain. We brandish it when we’re utterly confused. When we are confused, we seek the following:

  1. Rules, procedures, and answers

  2. Entertainment and distraction

  3. Questions and explorations

This is a response we’ve made to confusion since time immemorial. So how “modern” is modern if it’s been around for a while?

The nuance of our modern life is the ease by which we can cling to #1 and #2, organizing our days to avoid #3 at all costs.

But #3 is precisely what dissolves the confusion.

How do we begin to question and explore if we’ve spent most of our adult lives too distracted to pay attention?

By making art out of life and living artfully. Making art is quite simply seeing and appreciating things as they are, in their ordinary nature, without needing to control it or “jazz” it up.

We must stop looking for special all the time and become intimate with the normal and ordinary. As Jasper Morrison and Naoto Fukasawa (of Muji fame) put it:

There are better ways to design than putting a big effort into making something look special.

Special is generally less useful than normal, and less rewarding in the long term. Special things demand attention for the wrong reasons, interrupting potentially good atmosphere with their awkward presence.

An Ordinary Visual:

From painter Paul Klee’s Pedagogical Sketchbook: